Underage DWI

THE CRIME:

While often referred to as Underage Driving Under the Influence, the correct name for this offense is Underage Driving While Impaired (Underage DWI). Underage DWI applies to persons 16 years of age or over, but under age 18, and differs from the offense of Driving Under the Influence. In order to convict a person of Underage DWI, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was:

  1. driving or in physical control of
  2. a motor driven vehicle
  3. while:
    • (a) under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
    • (b) under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug; or
    • (c) with a blood alcohol content of .02% or higher.

Thus a person under the age of 18 is legally considered to be impaired “per se” (automatically) if their blood alcohol level meets or exceeds .02%. This holds true even if the other evidence does not indicate the person’s ability to drive is actually impaired. A person can also be convicted of Underage DWI for operating a vehicle while under the influence of a drug, even if it was prescribed by a physician.

Additionally, a person under the age of 18 may be charged with an Implied Consent Violation if he or she refuses to submit to a chemical test to determine the alcohol or drug content of the person’s blood. For additional information regarding Tennessee’s Implied Consent Violation, please click here.

THE CONSEQUENCES:

Upon conviction for Underage Driving While Impaired (Underage DWI), a person is subject to the following penalties.

The Offense of Underage DWI is a Delinquent Act (a Juvenile Court proceeding) and is punishable only by a one year driver’s license suspension and a fine of $250.00. The court may also impose public service work and court costs.

License revocation for one year may also required when a defendant is found to have refused to submit to a chemical (blood, breath, or urine) test after being lawfully requested to do so. This Implied Consent Violation may apply even where the defendant is not convicted of DUI.

In addition to the penalties imposed by the court, a person convicted of Underage DWI will likely face additional consequences. For further information regarding the collateral consequences of a DUI conviction, please click here.

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