It is an unfortunate fact that many teenagers drink and drive in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Even though drivers under the age of 21 account for only about 10% of drivers, they account for 14% of alcohol related traffic fatalities. Virginia lawmakers have recognized the seriousness of this problem and have passed laws that create different standards for those under 21 when it comes to DUI. Virginia also has what is known as a “zero tolerance” standard when it comes to underage DUI.

What Does the Law Say?

Virginia has a .08% blood alcohol content (BAC) standard for drivers over 21 with the exception of commercial vehicle operators. For those under 21, the standard is .02%. Although everyone is different in how they metabolize alcohol and there are many factors that determine BAC, chances are good that one or two drinks in an hour will get you well beyond the .02% limit. In other words, if someone under the age of 21 has even one drink before getting behind the wheel and is then pulled over by the police, he or she will be charged with DUI.

What are the Punishments for Underage DUI?

The punishments for underage DUI differ depending on the circumstances., but BACs from .02% to .07% now also carry a criminal tag. For a first offense, these include:

■ A conviction of a Class One misdemeanor which carries a potential of up to 12 months in jail.

■ A driver’s license suspension of one year in addition to the automatic administrative suspension of seven days.

■ A minimum fine of $500 up to a maximum of $2500 or 50 hours of community service.

For a BAC of .15% to .20%, an under-21 offender will face a minimum of five days in jail and for a BAC above .30%, they will face a minimum of ten days in jail.