Parents worry about their children’s future from the moment they are born. But, the concern reaches a new level when your teenager begins driving a car. One of the worst fears is drinking and driving. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show nearly one-third of all deaths of 15- to 20-year-olds involve motor vehicle crashes, and more than a third of those are alcohol-related.
Zero tolerance laws
The 1995 National Highway Systems Designation Act required states to consider a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for young drivers. Adults are considered legally impaired when they have a BAC of 0.08 or higher, but Colorado set the limit at 0.02 for drivers under 21 years old. An NHTSA study showed that fatal single-car nighttime crashes across the country declined by 20% because of zero-tolerance laws.
Colorado laws for underage drunk driving
Underage drivers with a BAC between 0.02 and 0.05 can be charged with underage drinking and driving (UDD). If their BAC is between 0.05 and 0.08, they can also be charged with DWAI or driving while ability impaired. Drivers under 21 with a BAC measuring 0.08 or higher can be charged with a DUI, just like an adult.
Penalties for UDD conviction
First-time offenders under 21 face these penalties if convicted:
- $150 fine
- Three-month driver’s license suspension
- Four points on their driving record
- Up to 24 hours of community service
A second offense can bring jail time of up to 90 days, a fine of up to $300 and another 24 hours of community service. The penalties are much more severe if the driver is convicted of causing an accident that injures or kills others.
Future potential consequences
While a UDD or DUI conviction may not be the end of the world for your underage driver, it could have serious ramifications for their future. These include:
- Loss of employment opportunities
- Jeopardizing college applications and scholarships
- Losing financial aid
- Facing discipline under academic honor codes
Zero tolerance laws apply to all underage drivers. There are no exceptions, even if your child gets caught with only a single can of beer while driving. Finding experienced legal guidance is crucial to defending them in court. A criminal defense attorney will assess police procedures, push for reduced sentences and work to protect your child, their future and their best interests.