Washington’s Zero Tolerance Law for Underage DUI & What to Do Now

Picking up an underage DUI charge can have wide-ranging consequences, such as spending time in jail, paying fines (in some cases), and attending a driver’s education course. Oftentimes, the court may revoke or suspend your license if it thinks you’re guilty of driving while intoxicated when you’re under 21. You can defend yourself against these claims in many ways, such as by challenging the evidence the state uses to charge you. For example, you might show that the breathalyzer was faulty or that you weren’t the one driving the vehicle. Washington law allows you to represent yourself in court or use a public defender, but these options may put you at a disadvantage. 

If you or your child is facing a DUI, you deserve a lawyer who understands you, your situation, and the legal process. At Veitch Ault Defense, you get an attorney with 19 years of experience defending those accused of crimes in Washington. Our King County DUI attorney has helped those throughout The Evergreen State fight against criminal charges. 

What Substances Are Included in Washington’s DUI Laws for Minors?

For purposes of most DUIs, anyone under 21 is considered a minor under Washington law. Different age limits may apply to different situations. Washington law bans minors from getting behind the wheel after ingesting alcohol or drugs. 

Prohibited substances include illegal drugs (like marijuana) and legal drugs (like prescription medications) that don’t belong to the person. What’s more, if someone takes a drug prescribed to them (such as clonazepam or Adderall), this may impair their ability to drive and result in a DUI. The government has also made it illegal for someone to inhale something (like paint fumes) to get high and operate a car. 

Substances like alcohol and THC have a legal limit. Many times, this limit applies to minors, regardless of how “drunk” or “high” someone seems to be. For other substances, the government may take a closer look at how someone is acting, such as by doing field sobriety tests like having them walk in a straight line or say the alphabet backward. 

What Is Washington’s Zero-Tolerance Law for an Underage DUI? 

Washington has strict rules about minors driving vehicles after consuming alcohol. Under the current law, it’s illegal for someone under 21 to be in a public space after they drink alcohol. Someone caught driving may be arrested and charged with a DUI if their breath smells like alcohol and their blood alcohol level is .02% or over. If someone has more than 0% of THC in their blood, the police may charge them with a DUI if they drive in a public place. 

If you’re facing a DUI charge and are under 21, hiring a Washington DUI attorney may be your best option. A criminal defense lawyer fights for you, using their time, resources, and knowledge to craft a solid case that showcases your strengths. They can help you understand Washington’s zero-tolerance law and possible exceptions that you can use to your advantage. 

What Are the Penalties for an Underage DUI? 

Under Washington law, the penalties for getting arrested for drinking or being under the influence of drugs while driving can be quite severe. Someone convicted of an underage DUI may walk away with a gross misdemeanor or a higher charge (such as a standard misdemeanor or felony), depending on the circumstances. Gross misdemeanors may carry a jail sentence of up to 364 days, but the court may increase the penalty if the person has repeated violations.

If you’re convicted, the judge may require you to serve a jail sentence, attend classes, and perform community service. In many cases, the court doesn’t make minors pay fines like the court normally would for adult offenders. There may be an exception where the judge believes a fee or fine is appropriate. The penalty may also include an underage DUI license suspension if your blood alcohol limit is high or other factors are present (like weapons or serious injuries). 

Sometimes, the court may require the accused to wear an electronic home monitoring device, which records where the person is at all times. When this happens, the person usually isn’t allowed to go to certain places (such as near liquor stores) while they have the device on. Additionally, they usually must be at their home location by a particular time. If they don’t follow these rules, the court may charge them fines each day they violate the order. The judge may also consider someone’s compliance level when deciding what jail sentence makes sense. 

How Can a Minor Defend Against a DUI Charge?

Underage DUI defense strategies include finding holes in the story or evidence the government uses to show you’re guilty. For example, if the cop insists that you were drunk when you were behind the wheel, you might prove that you consumed alcohol well after you had stopped driving rather than before or while you were behind the wheel. Additionally, you could show that you were on private property (like a friend’s house) or that someone else was driving. 

Another way to respond to charges is to show that the police did not follow the standard procedure when they arrested you or gathered evidence (such as a breathalyzer test). For example, you might point out that the police don’t have consistent records about who gathered or stored the evidence, which opens up the possibility for inaccuracies or tampering. If the state doesn’t follow the rules during court, you may also point this out to the judge to get evidence thrown out or the charges dismissed. 

How Long Does a DUI You Got When You Were Young Stay On Your Record?

One of the underage DUI consequences is that you have a conviction on your record. The charge may be part of your criminal record for a long time. Fortunately, a conviction from when you were a kid may not impact your ability to get or keep your license as an adult. Judges often use someone’s past criminal record to impose harsher penalties when they are found guilty of crimes; however, if you get another DUI as an adult, the one you got when you were underage may not count as a prior conviction. So, while the charge likely stays on your record, it may not be used against you as an adult. 

Veitch Ault Defense: Contact an Underage DUI Attorney You Can Count On

Facing a DUI charge when you’re under 21 can be frustrating and scary. You may be concerned about what this means for your future and how much your life will change after getting arrested. 

Veitch Ault Defense understands where you’re coming from and has successfully helped over 1,000 clients fight DUI charges. Robert Ault has devoted his career to fighting for people in your position. He was named a Washington State Super Lawyer from 2016 to 2023, a distinction that only a small percentage of attorneys receive in the state. 

If you’re charged with an underage DUI in Washington State, you need Robert in your corner. Contact him today by calling 425-312-6753 to schedule a free consultation to talk about your situation. 


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