Columbia Underage DUI Lawyer
Prosecutors and judges treat underage DUI cases more harshly than adult DUI cases. Underage drinkers cause a disproportionate amount of alcohol-related car accidents, so the standards and penalties may be more severe. Additionally, judges are not limited to a mandatory minimum sentence and can consider any aggravating and mitigating factors in the case, such as whether the underage DUI charge was a person’s first offense, how he or she performed on the field sobriety test, and his or her BAC level.
For these reasons, if you or your child has been charged with a DUI and is under the age of 21, it is vital to get a Columbia underage DUI lawyer to build the best possible defense in order to prevent the potentially secure penalties. An experienced DUI attorney can help protect your legal rights throughout the process and ensure that you have the strongest defense possible built for your case.
If an individual is convicted of an underage DUI, they will face the same penalties as an adult. For first time offenses, the penalties include a one-year jail sentence and up to a $1,000 fine. An individual who is convicted of an underage DUI may face a license suspension.
Additionally, it can have severe complications in a person’s future. On top of the court imposed sentence, they will most likely have to pay higher rates for their insurance and lose critical employment, educational, and housing opportunities due to this conviction being on their record, all of which make contacting a Columbia underage DUI attorney imperative.
An underage individual may be able to perform several hours of community service, pay an extremely high fine or have a long probation period instead of spending time in jail, depending on the circumstances of his or her case.
More than likely, the individual will have to complete an alcohol education or treatment program before qualifying for these alternative sentences.
Identifying Legal Behavior
The drinking age in Columbia is 21 and drinking by individuals younger than 21 is illegal unless the individual is on a private, non-alcohol selling premises with the consent of a legal guardian. Underage drivers are considered to be impaired if their BAC is calculated as 0.02% or higher and can be cited for a DUI.
The underage DUI process is the same as the adult DUI process in terms of the clues of impairments that are observed, the tests that are administered, including the field sobriety test and the breathalyzer, and what the prosecutors must prove in court. However, while an underage drinker is considered to be impaired with a BAC of 0.02% or higher, an adult is considered to be impaired with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
DUI in Minors
The only legal difference with minor DUI cases compared to underage DUI cases is that for individuals under the age of 18, their cases will be heard in Juvenile Court rather than the District Court.
Much like adult cases heard in district court, prosecutors and judges within the juvenile court system take these types of cases very seriously. The prosecutors will always move forward with a minor DUI unless there is legitimate reason to believe he or she will not be able to secure a conviction. Although the defendant is under 18 and therefore their record will be automatically sealed, the individual facing DUI charges is still eligible for harsh penalties, such as jail time.
Hiring an experienced Columbia underage DUI attorney is incredibly important. The attorney will be able to walk the individual through the necessary steps to take in order to ensure a favorable result, including enrolling in an alcohol education treatment program and ceasing to drink alcohol. Additionally, at the court hearing, an attorney will be able to show the judge that the defendant is not at risk of being a repeat offender and may be able to secure a dismissal or PBJ on their behalf.
Handling an Underage DUI
A judge may treat an underage DUI more harshly than the standard DUI due to the fact that the individual should not have been drinking alcohol in the first place, let alone drinking and driving. In these instances, judges tend to not grant underage drinkers a probation before judgment, but will instead require that the individual demonstrates good behavior for a specified time period before allowing him or her to have a clean record again. An experienced Columbia underage DUI attorney can assist in guiding the individual through the exact procedures.
If the individual who is charged with an underage DUI is 18 years old or older, he or she will be charged with an adult DUI and his or her case will be heard in the district court. However, as an underage DUI lawyer in Columbia can explain, if the individual is younger than 18 years old, the case will be heard in the juvenile court.
Obtaining a Restricted License
The process for obtaining a restricted license is similar to that for a standard DUI. When an individual is arrested for an underage DUI, they will be given a document stating that they have a right to an administrative hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings to discuss their driving privileges. Once they fill out that document and follow the instructions to request an administrative hearing with the MVA, the individual and their attorney will be able to attend the hearing and request that they be approved for a restricted license. A restricted license allows so that a person can continue driving for essential purposes during the DUI suspension period.
Whether or not a DUI will have an impact on an individual’s student status will depend both on the circumstances of the case and the specific university policies. However, most universities require potential students to list any criminal convictions they have received on their entry application. Accordingly, once an individual has disclosed their underage DUI conviction, it may result in rejection from the university.
The court is under no obligation to inform the individual’s university that he or she was charged or convicted of a DUI. However, depending on the university’s policy, a student may have an affirmative duty to inform the university that they were charged with a crime. Usually, universities will place the student on a form of academic probation if they have incurred a criminal charge. Additionally, depending on the circumstances of the case, the student may be expelled.
The university may require an individual to appear at a hearing with the dean’s office or student council. At the hearing, the student will be able to present any evidence that may defend against his or her underage DUI charge or mitigate the circumstances.
Role of Parents
Parents should expect that this is not a quick process, and that it will take several months before it is complete. They should be aware that mitigating the possible penalties and long term implications of an underage DUI charge is the most important thing to do to obtain a positive outcome.
Parents should educate themselves about the Maryland DUI laws and be aware of the consequences that their child may face with an underage DUI conviction. This includes the short term and long term consequences, such as rejections from college, employment challenges, and financial hardship.
Additionally, parents should seek out a Columbia underage DUI lawyer to help in defending their child. Parents should also immediately help their child with enrolling in an alcohol program before any court appearances. This will help to show the court that the child is taking the matter seriously.
Benefit of the Right Lawyer
Parents will know if their child is getting the right Columbia underage DUI lawyer by speaking to different attorneys and inquiring as to their experience and background. This will include how long he or she has been handling underage DUI cases, and whether he or she is familiar with the judges and prosecutors. The attorney’s initial assessment of the child’s case, such as whether he or she foresees any potential defenses that the child may have, who else would be working on the child’s case with the attorney, and if he or she will be personally available to represent your child in court are all things to heavily consider when deciding upon the right attorney.