Pittsburgh Underage DUI Attorney | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys

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As a college student driving home from a party or bar with alcohol in your system, you probably didn’t think you’d be pulled over by the police. The experience can be scary and frustrating, but know that you are not alone — plenty of underage students drink, and everyone makes mistakes. However, in Pennsylvania, law enforcement will be unforgiving if they suspect you of an underage DUI.

If you or your child were arrested for an underage DUI in Pittsburgh, contact an experienced DUI attorney today to schedule a FREE consultation: (412) 281-2146.

Pennsylvania Underage DUI Laws

To begin with, it is completely illegal for you to consume alcohol when you are under 21 (18 Pa. Code §6308). The first time you are caught with alcohol while underage, you can face a summary offense, which will result in a fine of up to $500. A second alcohol offense will be a summary offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

However, the stakes get much higher if you get behind the wheel. Pennsylvania has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drunk or drugged driving.

An underage drinking DUI is charged under 18 Pa. Code §3802(e), which states it is illegal for a minor to drive, operate, or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after consuming a sufficient amount of alcohol that their BAC is 0.02 percent or higher within two hours of driving, operating, or being in control of the vehicle. A BAC of 0.02 percent is very low. It might only take one drink for you to hit the legal limit and be charged with an offense.

Marijuana-Related Underage DUI

An underage DUI with marijuana is charged under 18 Pa. Code §3802(d), which prohibits anyone from driving, operating, or being in physical control of the movement of a vehicle when:

  • There is a Schedule I, II, or III controlled substance in their body, or a metabolite of a substance;
  • You are under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs;
  • You are under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol; or
  • You are under the influence of a solvent or noxious substance.

The police need very little to arrest you on suspicion of drunk or drugged driving. It could be that they smell alcohol or marijuana in the car. They may notice that your eyes are bloodshot or glassy-looking. You may be slow to respond, slur your words, or not provide appropriate answers to their questions.

Whenever you face an alcohol-related offense as a young adult, particularly an underage DUI, you need to contact an underage DUI attorney to help you navigate the legal system and work to obtain the best possible results in your case.

Penalties for Underage DUIs in Pennsylvania

If you are younger than 21, Pennsylvania’s legal drinking age, you will be judged by stricter blood alcohol standards than older drivers are. Your blood alcohol content (BAC) only has to be .02 percent or higher for you to be charged with DUI, while those over 21 need to have a BAC of at least .08 percent.

You also don’t even need to have .02 percent BAC to face negative repercussions. With the Commonwealth’s “no tolerance” policy, minors caught driving with any amount of alcohol in their system are in jeopardy of having their driver’s license suspended for three months.

Underage DUIs are punished harshly in Pennsylvania. If you had a BAC of 0.02 or higher, you face the following penalties based on the number of prior offenses:

For a first offense:

  • Imprisonment of at least 48 consecutive hours;
  • Fines of no less than $500 nor more than $5,000;
  • Alcohol highway safety school approved by the department; and
  • Compliance with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed under sections 3814 and 3815.

For a second offense:

  • Imprisonment of at least 30 days;
  • Fines between $750 and $5,000;
  • Alcohol highway safety school approved by the department; and
  • Compliance with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed under sections 3814 and 3815.

For a third offense:

  • Imprisonment of at least 90 days;
  • pay a fine of not less than $1,500 nor more than $10,000;
  • attend an alcohol highway safety school approved by the department; and
  • comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed under sections 3814 and 3815.

For a fourth or subsequent offense:

  • Imprisonment of at least one year;
  • pay a fine of not less than $1,500 nor more than $10,000;
  • attend an alcohol highway safety school approved by the department; and
  • comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed under sections 3814 and 3815.

Additional Consequences of an Underage DUI

Outside of the legal penalties for an underage DUI charge, you might face numerous repercussions in your day-to-day life. For example, when you lose your license, you may not be able to get to and from class. If you cannot find transportation, you may be forced to leave college. Depending on school policies, you may also face administrative penalties.

Additional consequences for an underage DUI in Pittsburgh include:

  • If you rely on private grants and scholarships, a DUI conviction could place those in jeopardy.
  • If your DUI was related to marijuana or another drug, and you were also convicted of a drug crime while receiving student loans, you could lose your eligibility for federal financial aid. You might need to complete a drug rehabilitation program before you can get federal loans again.
  • If you had hoped to study abroad, you might encounter a problem. Many other nations will refuse visas to people with criminal records, and an underage DUI will give you a criminal record. You may have to ask special permission to go to Canada, Mexico, and many other countries.
  • Your job may also be affected. If you cannot get to and from work reliably, you may be let go. You also cannot take on any job that requires driving, such as being a delivery driver.
  • You also need to consider the financial ramifications of an underage DUI. In addition to the fines, you will have to pay court costs.
  • You will need to pay reinstatement fees to get your license back.
  • You will face higher insurance premiums because you will be labeled a riskier driver.

ARD Option for First-Time Juvenile Offenders

If it’s your first DUI, you might be eligible for Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program (ARD), a diversionary program. One of ARD’s chief benefits is that if you take the program you are not pleading guilty to your DUI charge. If you complete ARD successfully, the charge will be expunged from your record.

Underage Drinking in Pennsylvania

If you were charged with underage drinking, it’s important to seek legal representation from a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer to prevent your future from being affected. Our attorneys can lead you through the legal process and help you understand and fight your charge.

Can Your Underage DUI Be Expunged?

In general, Pennsylvania only expunges DUIs for those who are over 70 or deceased. However, underage drivers are the lucky exception. Per 18 Pennsylvania Code Section 9122, an underage driver can petition to have a DUI expunged from their record if they have met all the conditions of their underage DUI sentence. This may include paying fines, substance abuse classes, and completing a driver’s license suspension.

The grace provided by this provision is astounding. There is no waiting period. There is only the requirement that the conditions of their DUI sentence be satisfied.

In terms of taking action, the importance of DUI expungement cannot be overstated. This is especially true for students who are attending college or who will soon be attending college. Your chance of being admitted to or remaining in school will be much higher if you do not have a criminal record.

Steps to Take if You’re Charged with Underage DUI

If you, or your college-aged child, have been charged with underage DUI, your first step should be to research and hire an experienced Pittsburgh DUI attorney. Before your hearing is even scheduled, a defense attorney can help you navigate law enforcement’s questions and negotiate with prosecutors to have your charges lowered or dismissed.

As soon as you receive the mailing from the courts that includes the criminal complaint against you, show this paperwork to your attorney so he or she can review the exact information pertaining to your case.

Call a Pittsburgh Underage DUI Attorney Today

If you or your child is arrested, your defense attorney can evaluate the Commonwealth’s evidence and negotiate for charges to be dismissed or lowered, and the fines reduced. Your attorney will also be with you when you appear in court and be able to defend you to the best possible outcome. If there are witnesses, such as the police, who are brought in to try and prove your guilt, your juvenile defense lawyer will question them closely to determine the accuracy of their memory and challenge their recall.

If your case is dismissed, you will be eligible to have your criminal record cleared (expunged). The Pennsylvania expungement process can be tricky to deal with, so having an attorney on your side can be helpful while you look toward your future.

Questions? Contact me.

Your rights are at stake and you need the best defense to keep them. I will fight using the strongest defense available to get your Underage DUI charge reduced or dismissed so you can move on with your life. Call (412) 281-2146 or fill out our online contact form.