Pennsylvania DUIs – Minors
Pennsylvania, like most states, requires that a person must be 21 years of age in order to consume alcohol. However, recognizing those under the age of 21 may nevertheless choose to drink alcohol, Pennsylvania has set forth a separate criminal offense in its statutes for those under the age of 21 who operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated. This criminal offense denotes a blood alcohol content, or BAC, much lower than that for other DUI offenses in Pennsylvania. Therefore, if you are a minor in Pennsylvania and you choose to drink alcohol, you should think carefully before getting behind the wheel because the results can be devastating. This is true not only in regards to the criminal penalties that you will face but also due to your increased risk of being involved in an accident in which either you or someone else is killed.
Threshold BAC for a Minor Involved in a DUI
The criminal offense of DUI for those under age 21 differs from a DUI for someone over the age of 21 in one significant aspect: the threshold for blood alcohol content, or BAC, for someone under the age of 21 is significantly lower than that for someone of legal drinking age. For drivers under 21 to be the law deems them per se impaired if their BAC is 0.02 or higher whereas drivers over the age of 21 are per se deemed impaired when their BAC is 0.08 or higher. In a person of average weight, a .02 BAC can be achieved by the consumption of less than a full alocholic drink.
Penalties for a Minor Involved in a DUI
According to Pennsylvania law, being convicted of DUI as a minor with a BAC of .02% or higher results in a fine of $500 up to $5,000, mandatory imprisonment of 2 days to 6 months, completion of an alcohol highway traffic safety program as well as compliance with any drug or alcohol treatment obligations which the sentencing judge may impose. These are all punishments for a first offense only. The penalties become harsher for second and third DUI convictions (within a 10 year lookback period) as a minor Therefore, if you are a minor in Pennsylvania who has had anything to drink, it’s best not to get behind the wheel considering the extreme consequences that can befall you should be be arrested and ultimately convicted of DUI.
Why is BAC Threshold for Minors So Much Lower?
Aside from the obvious reason that the consumption of alcohol by minors is illegal under Pennsylvania law, minors who drive impaired are also more likely to be involved in accidents. According to statistics from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, of the traffic fatalities on Pennsylvania roadways in the year 2010, 31 percent of those deaths involved drunk drivers between the ages of 15-20. This was an increase of 27 percent from the previous year. Thus, minors who drink and drive are more likely to either kill or be killed in an accident that occurs on Pennsylvania’s roadways.