DUI Charges for Minors in Maryland
Minors, meaning people who are under the age of 18, that have a DUI charge brought against them will not, generally, be charged in adult court. >When someone is under the age of 18, their case is not heard in the district court in Maryland.
Their case is heard by the juvenile court system, which is responsible for handling matters for people under 18 years of age who are alleged to have committed a criminal offense. There are occasions when a DUI is particularly serious where the circumstances are exacerbated, and in such a situation, the case might be brought up to adult’s court.
These situations are very rare. They might involve a serious car accident where there are damages or injuries to the driver or to another party that got the attention of the police and the prosecution in such a way that they constitute the need to have the matter litigated in the adult court system. In these situations, it is very important to work with an experienced underage DUI attorney in Maryland who will know how to address these more significant charges and penalties.
The most important thing to find out from someone under 18 with a DUI is whether they have a significant issue with alcohol and have an evaluation conducted immediately. Adults who drink have explanations for why they were drinking. Perhaps they are at a social function and made a poor decision on one occasion to drive after that event.
A child who is drinking raises more suspicions because they are not permitted to have alcohol. The questions become how they got the alcohol, why they were drinking, and whether there are larger issues to address than a social drinker who made a mistake as is typically the case with first time DUI offenders in adult court.
Legal BAC Level for a Minor
For an adult, a BAC level of 0.06 or higher is usually necessary for there to be a possibility of it being considered illegal. A 0.05 or less is usually going to have no criminal consequences for an adult. On the other hand, a juvenile can be charged with a DUI offense if they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.02 or higher.
The reason that the level required for juvenile prosecution is so different than that of an adult is because if a person is under the age of 21 they are already committing a crime by drinking.
An officer does not need to demonstrate that a person is higher than a 0.02 in order to arrest them in a DUI case or charge them with DUI related offenses because any person under the age of 21 is not supposed to have any alcohol in their system at all. The reason for that 0.02 threshold is because it takes into account the margin of error for most Breathalyzer machines, which is usually a plus or minus 0.01 or 0.02.
Differences from Standard Cases
Standard DUI cases require a different level of evidence because, for example, somebody who is over 21 is permitted to have some alcohol in their system, so an odor of alcohol is not enough to establish probable cause in a case.
A person under the age of 21 is not permitted to have any alcohol in their system. Even an odor or admission to drinking a small amount of alcohol could rise to the level of being very strong evidence in a case against somebody who is under age.
Prosecution and Court
Minor DUI cases are treated seriously, but they are treated with an eye towards rehabilitation instead of punishment. If a person is under the age of 18 and a juvenile court system hears their case, the judges are inclined to order treatment and multiple status conferences to review the person’s progress.
The idea is to have some sort of early intervention as opposed to waiting and allowing a problem to get bigger. The person could actually have a vision they can carry into their adult life. The juvenile court system sees an opportunity to intervene and ensure that a person making mistakes about alcohol has those issues addressed in the juvenile courtroom and does not follow them in their adult life.
It is in the opinion of the prosecutor and the court that if they can address issues at a young age with juveniles, they can keep the juvenile from having issues with substances in the future. The courts make sure that the juvenile understands that the court system is to deter them from allowing this particular matter to be a gateway to more serious or significant crimes in their adult life.
Adult sentencing is different from juvenile sentencing. In the juvenile system, there is an eye towards rehabilitation, so that if the person can rehabilitate during the course of their proceedings in juvenile court, those records are sealed.
In the adult court system, there is an eye towards rehabilitation as well. However, it is far less likely that a prosecutor or a court would be inclined to close out a case after a person completes their probation and removes it from their record. Instead, there is likely a record forever in adult court, unlike a record that could be sealed in the juvenile system.
Possible Penalties for an Under 18 DUI
The penalties for a minor are going to be the same as somebody who is over the age of 18 or even over the age of 21. The juvenile system is seen as a different system in the sense that people are disciplined for being involved in criminal acts. Most juveniles do not go to jail for these kinds of criminal acts. Instead, they are usually subject to some kind of treatment and are watched by the court for a period of time.
The consequences and penalties are not as serious in the juvenile system, but that is to assure that the court system catches on to any criminal activity early enough to make sure that the matter is not repeated when the individuals become adults.
What Parents Should Know
The most important thing someone should do to protect their child in these cases is to contact an attorney immediately. Just because a child is a juvenile, it does not mean that they are not facing very serious consequences.
Their driver’s license is going to be subject to a lot of attention. They are also going to face other consequences from the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) including a lengthy suspension and perhaps no reinstatement until they achieve certain standards required by the Motor Vehicle Administration.
There are significant and lengthy proceedings and penalties through the court system, even if the setting is a juvenile hearing. There is no reason that a family should downplay the consequences of this kind of case. There are many things that need to be done in order to take appropriate measures for damage control purposes including requesting a hearing with the Motor Vehicle Administration and enrolling in an appropriate alcohol education program.Get in touch with an attorney who can make this process a little easier for you.