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A Brief Explanation of Pennsylvania's Underage DUI Laws

For many teenagers and young adults, the idea of alcohol is so enticing that they simply can’t wait until they reach the age of 21 to start partaking. However, this unfortunately causes many of them to get behind the wheel while intoxicated, and sadly leads to a number of DUI-related crashes, injuries and even fatalities. To crack down on those who are under the age of 21 and prevent them from driving while drunk, the laws for these particular offenders are different from those who are of legal drinking age—they’re far more strict.

Here is a brief explanation of how Pennsylvania law handles under age DUI cases, and what you could find yourself facing if you’re accused of this offense.

Reduced BAC Limit

The largest and arguably most important difference between an underage DUI and your simple DUI charge is the legal blood alcohol content limit that you’re allowed to have. Most people know of the .08 limit, but that actually doesn’t hold true for those who are underage. In Pennsylvania, that limit is .01. Pennsylvania has a strict zero-tolerance policy toward underage drinking and driving, and any traceable amount of alcohol in your system is grounds for a DUI conviction if you’re under the age of 21. That means even a single beer could be enough to see someone arrested and charged with driving under the influence if they’re not yet at legal drinking age.

DUI Penalties

Penalties for those who are underage are different as well. There are three primary categories of penalty for an underage dui: jail time, fines, and driver’s license suspensions. The biggest difference is that underage DUI offenders are not likely to see jail time if they are convicted unless their BAC is above .10. At this point, a first-time offender could be jailed for up to 90 days. Repeat offenders are also likely to be sentenced to at least a small stint in jail and years of driver’s license suspension.

There are other non-legal penalties as well. Having a criminal history could jeopardize your eligibility for student loans and financial aid. FAFSA eligibility is not affected, but private and many public scholarships often require you to keep a clean criminal history to maintain eligibility. Some universities also don’t take kindly to their students who are underage and receive alcohol-related offenses—suspension, probation, or even expulsion may ensue for a conviction.

DUI Expungement

Normally, a DUI can’t be expunged from your criminal history until you either reach the age of 70, or have passed away. However, underage DUI is the one lucky exception to this rule. Pennsylvania law has created a provision which allows underage drivers to petition to have their DUI expunged, provided they’ve met all of the conditions of their underage DUI sentence. That means all fines must be paid in full, all driver’s license suspensions must be completed, and any jail time that was required must have been served in its entirety.

And here’s the best part: there is no waiting period for this—as soon as the conditions of your sentence are satisfied, you can apply for expungement. This is incredibly vital for those who are looking to attend college or who will soon be attending college—many universities require students to keep a clean criminal history prior to admission, and then maintain it throughout their attendance there. Having a DUI on your record could lead to expulsion or having your acceptance rescinded.

If you or someone you know is facing charges of an underage DUI, make sure you have a skilled Scranton DUI attorney on your side. Call the Law Offices of William D. Thompson at (570) 666-1068 today to request a case evaluation.

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