Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has come a long way in its attitude about drunk driving and alcohol use in general. What was once glossed over is now recognized as a serious problem, and nowhere more so than in the nation's courts — where people face the consequences of their impaired actions in both criminal cases brought by the government and civil cases brought by those injured in alcohol-related accidents.
Legal Consequences of Underage Drinking and Driving
The legal consequences of driving under the influence (DUI) are particularly hard for anyone under the legal drinking age of 21. All states now have some form of "zero tolerance" law, which means that, while people over 21 may pass a drunk-driving test if they have less than the legal limit of .08 blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), those under 21 are held to a stricter standard. In Illinois, any driver under 21 with even a trace of alcohol in his or her system faces a revocation of driving privileges for a minimum of three months for a first violation and one year on a second violation.
In addition to the zero-tolerance laws, underage drinkers can face other legal problems in Illinois, as well. If alcohol is discovered in a car driven by a minor, anyone in the car can receive up to a $1,000 fine, and the driver faces a one-year driver's license suspension. Using a fake ID — or letting someone else use your valid ID to purchase alcohol — can be punishable by up to a year in jail and fines of up to $2,500 for just a first offense. The same penalties apply for adults who provide alcohol to minors or knowingly allow alcohol to be consumed by minors in their homes.
Other Dangers of Teen Drinking
Underage drinking and driving, beyond the legal consequences, poses great danger to teen drivers, any passengers and all others on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 already account for the highest percentage of costs of motor vehicle injuries (30 percent among males and 28 percent among females) while only accounting for 14 percent of the U.S. population. Teen drivers also have an increased risk of accidents after drinking than older drivers, at all levels of BAC.
Further, the CDC reports that 25 percent of drivers aged 15 to 20 who were fatally injured in 2008 had a BAC of 0.08 or higher. And, in a 2007 survey, one in ten teens reported that they had driven after drinking in the moth prior to taking the survey.
Driving is just the tip of the ice berg in terms of the possible injuries and dangers that underage drinking poses. For instance, teens also are at risk of alcohol poisoning and have a possibly increased risk of sexual assault or unwanted pregnancy when drinking alcohol.
Whether your son or daughter has been accused of underage drinking or you or a loved one has been injured due to underage drinking, speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal options.