District of Columbia: Underage DUI

The drinking age in the District of Columbia (D.C.) is 21 and consumption of alcohol by anyone under 21 is illegal (with no exceptions). Because underage drinkers cause a disproportionate number of alcohol-related auto fatalities, the standards are stricter and the penalties may be harsher for those under 21. D.C. has three categories of DUI offenses:

  • Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). DWI applies to a person having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI). DUI applies to a person having a blood alcohol concentration of .07 percent or lower. Under D.C. Code, a driver can be charged with a DUI offense if, in addition to a BAC reading, the officer has other signs of impairment from a structured field sobriety test and from observations of the suspect's driving behavior.
  • Under Age Drinking. Persons under the age of 21 found to be operating a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol, will be charged with DWI—Driving While Intoxicated. 

More information about the District of Columbia’s teen driving requirements.

What constitutes driving under the influence?

The District of Columbia is a zero-tolerance jurisdiction. If a chemical test determines that an under-21 driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) above 00.00%, the driver can be cited for driving under the influence.

What are the penalties?

If First Drunk Driving Conviction: imprisonment (90 days), fine ($300 to $1,000), license suspension (six months)(more information: First Offense DUI in the District of Columbia).

If Second Drunk Driving Conviction within 15 Years: imprisonment (Up to 1 year jail) fine ($1,000 up to $5,000) license suspension (1 year). (More Information: Second Offense DUI in the District of Columbia.)

What if you refuse the chemical test? Read about the District of Columbia implied consent laws. 

What other charges?

In addition to driving under the influence, an underage drinker may be charged with any of the following:

  • distributing alcohol to other minors (were there underage drunk passengers?),
  • minor in possession,
  • soliciting alcohol,
  • child endangerment law violations,
  • possession of false identification (was a fake id used to purchase alcohol?), and
  • moving and vehicle maintenance violations (what else did the arresting officer see?). 

What happens to insurance?

Some insurance companies may terminate a policy after an underage DUI (while others refuse to renew). Most companies simply raise the cost of the monthly premium by $100 to $200 (sometimes higher) for a higher risk policy. The raise usually stays in place for three to five years. You’ll also probably need to furnish the DMV with an SR-22 certificate to reinstate a license after suspension (as proof of insurability). Most insurance companies furnish this form to the DMV. Check with your insurer to see if it performs this service.

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