Underage DWI, as defined by Louisiana Revised Statute 14.98.6, is the operating of any motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, vessel, or other means of conveyance when the operator's blood alcohol concentration is 0.02 percent or more by weight based on grams of alcohol per one hundred cubic centimeters of blood, if the operator is under the age of twenty-one. If the BAC is .08 or above, then the person is charged with an adult DWI, regardless of age.
Zero Tolerance Penalties for Underage DWI
Louisiana has a zero-tolerance policy for underage DUI charges. The penalties for underage drinking and driving offenses include:
On a first conviction:
the offender shall be fined: $100 - $250
imprisoned for not less than ten days nor more than three months
On a second or subsequent conviction:
the offender shall be fined $250 - $500
imprisoned for 30 days to 6 months.
Refusing DWI Tests in Underage DWI Cases
If an arrested minor has any alcohol in them at all, it may be advisable to consider not blowing into a device at all. Louisiana's Implied Consent Law results in punishment if an offender simply refuses to blow into the Intoxilizer device to measure BAC (blood alcohol content). For a person small in stature, it may not take more than a single beer to reach .02. Thus, even a small amount of alcohol could result in an underage DUI arrest. As the punishment is often lesser for refusal than a high BAC, a reasonable conclusion is that if the arrested minor has any alcohol in him at all, it may be advisable to consider not blowing into the device at all.
How a DWI Under 21 Affects Your Future
Though an underage DUI cannot be used against a person in an adult DUI charge regarding subsequent offenses, nothing in the law prevents the driving while intoxicated charge from being put onto the driver's record. If the underage DWI charge is discovered by an insurance company or employer, they can still suffer expensive consequences. A drinking and driving arrest for a college student can also result in a loss of a scholarship and/or the inability to participate in athletic events. If the minor is still in high school, an underage DUI may prevent the student from being accepted by a university.
In many respects, a conviction for DWI under the age of 21 is just as serious as an adult DWI and should be defended vigorously by an experienced criminal defense attorney.