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Minnesota’s Zero Tolerance for Teens Drinking and Driving

by Jun 23, 2022Criminal Defense Attorney, DWI / DUI, Sam Edmunds

DWIs are one of the most common criminal charges in Minnesota. Some estimates show that one out of every seven drivers in Minnesota has a DWI on their record. Since prosecutors see this charge often, it can be difficult to avoid a DWI conviction without compelling evidence. A conviction can have long-term impacts for adults, and these impacts may be amplified for juveniles who are caught drinking and driving.  

“Not A Drop” of Alcohol for Teen Drivers

Minnesota has zero tolerance for adolescents and young adults under age 21 who drink and drive. Since drinking at this age is already against the law, the state is very serious about how it handles a charge of driving while intoxicated and underage. Anyone underage who is pulled over and has consumed any amount of alcohol is charged with a misdemeanor because of Minnesota’s strict underage drinking and driving law – often referred to as the “not a drop” law. If the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is under the legal limit for adults, which is 0.08, they will be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if the driver’s BAC is above the legal limit, they will face a DWI charge

It’s important to remember that young adults who are charged with DWI will be prosecuted in adult court, not as a juvenile. If they are under the legal limit and are charged with a misdemeanor, anyone 18 and older will be tried in adult court. And when it comes to a DWI charge, even 16 and 17 year olds will be tried in adult court and will receive an adult punishment. Just because the legal drinking age is 21, that doesn’t mean that young adults will not be considered adults in the eyes of the law. There is no leniency for these defendants, even if they made the poor choice to drink and drive because they don’t yet have the ability to make responsible adult decisions. 

The Impact of An Underage DWI Conviction

Being charged with a crime as a juvenile can have lifelong repercussions. Defendants who are tried in juvenile court may have different rights, and their punishment may be slightly different than an adult’s. But even with these differences, the fact remains that a criminal conviction of any kind and at any age carries stigma. The defendant may struggle to find work and housing, and background checks that show a DWI or Underage Drinking and Driving can limit their opportunities. If you or your child has been charged with underage DWI, you should do everything in your power to avoid a conviction that will be added to the defendant’s record. 

Criminal defense attorneys look at several factors when determining how to approach a DWI case for a teenager or young adult. First we will consider the evidence and determine whether the prosecutors have a viable case. If not, we may request that the charges be dismissed. If the evidence is convincing enough that we feel it may be detrimental to go to court, we may request a lesser charge that will not be as detrimental on your record. And if you will be tried with one or more aggravating factors, we can look into getting the severity of the charges reduced. Pleading guilty to the DWI may be beneficial in some cases if it will lead to a lesser sentence. These options can all be considered when you work with a juvenile crime defense attorney for DWIs. With so much on the line, no teenager or young adult should face their charges without the support of an experienced and successful MN criminal defense attorney. 

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