In many states, including South Carolina, the government has instituted what are called “zero tolerance” laws regarding underage drinking and driving. Under these zero tolerance laws, the state considers anyone under the legal drinking age of 21 to be prohibited from consuming alcohol and then driving. So, any trace of alcohol is a crime for someone who is driving and is under 21.
A person under 21 who drives with a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than 0.02 will face an automatic suspension of his or her license in South Carolina. Some states have either 0.02 or some other minimum level of intoxication similar to the “zero tolerance” level, or have made zero BAC as the allowable limit for individuals under 21.
Increasing Penalties for Repeated Zero Tolerance Offenses
If an individual under the age of 21 is convicted of a DUI then his license will be suspended for three months. If there is any subsequent DUI conviction, then the driver will face a six month suspension.
What If a Driver Under 21 Refuses a Breathalyzer?
For a driver under 21, if he refuses a breathalyzer then the individual will have their driver’s license suspended for six months. Also, if this same driver has a prior alcohol-related conviction or suspension within the past five years, then the driver will have his license suspended for one full year.
Rationale for Zero Tolerance Statutes
According to research, teenagers face significant risk of auto accidents, but particularly face high risk in alcohol-related crashes. Zero tolerance laws are designed to help this issue by directly prohibiting driving by youth with an alcohol in their bodies.
Based on research in several states with zero tolerance laws, there were significant reductions in car crashes attributable to drinking and driving by drivers under 21.
Drivers who are under 21 face social peer pressure to do things that may not be in their best interests. Also, they are relatively inexperienced in driving which can make them less responsible and safe drivers.
Further, in many situations the laws are designed to provide remediation and administrative remedies for underage drivers convicted of DUI rather than requiring the individual to go through criminal proceedings or face criminal penalties. The goal is to provide youths with an opportunity to improve their driving patterns and drinking behavior before they become older and face much stricter criminal penalties.
Given how important it is for younger individuals to avoid major criminal penalties, it is important that individuals who face criminal accusations seek legal counsel to get all the help that may be needed.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer For DUI Legal Help
If you have any questions about your legal rights as a criminal defendant, it is critical that you reach out to a lawyer for assistance. The Bateman Law Firm is prepared to assist you with your case if you need legal defense in Greenville or the rest of South Carolina. Reach out to us today for a consultation on your case.