Underage consumption of alcohol is a serious issue, and alone, constitutes a crime. The crime becomes more serious when an underage person chooses to drink and drive.
This article discusses Minnesota’s laws and penalties that apply to underage drinking and driving. (“Underage” refers to persons under 21—the legal drinking age in Minnesota.)
Not-a-drop. Minnesota makes it a crime for a person under the legal drinking age to drive a vehicle while having any amount of alcohol in the body. This law is commonly referred to as the “Not-a-Drop” law. It represents a zero-tolerance policy on underage drinking and driving.
DWI. In addition, Minnesota’s prohibition on driving while impaired (DWI) applies to all drivers, regardless of age. Underage DWI offenders are subject to many of the same criminal and administrative penalties as other DWI offenders. And certain license sanctions are harsher for underage motorists.
(Minn. Stat. Ann. § § 169A.20, 169A.33, 169A.52-.54, 171.04, 171.05, 171.055, 260B.225 (2016).)
Not-a-drop. It’s a misdemeanor for anyone under 21 to operate a vehicle while having any amount of alcohol in the body. A misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. If the offender is under 18, the offense is prosecuted in juvenile rather than adult court .
A first-time offender’s license is suspended for 30 days. The license suspension increases to 180 days for a second offense. For unlicensed offenders, the violation places future restrictions on the offender’s ability to get an instruction permit, provisional license, or driver’s license.
DWI. An underage driver, who is impaired or has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, can be charged with a DWI. If convicted, the criminal and civil penalties depend on the person’s past impaired driving record and the circumstances involved in the current DWI offense. Read about the penalties for first, second, or third DWI in Minnesota.
Minnesota DWI law treats drivers age 16 or 17 like adults. Even though they are juveniles, these offenders are prosecuted in adult court and receive adult DWI penalties. Drivers who are 15 or younger are prosecuted in juvenile court as a “major highway traffic offenders.”
An underage offender’s license is suspended for 180 days for a first DWI. For unlicensed offenders, the DWI violation places future restrictions on the offender’s ability to get an instruction permit, provisional license, or driver’s license.
(Minn. Stat. Ann. § § 169A.20, 169A.52-.54, 171.04, 171.05, 171.055, 260B.225 (2016).)
The costs of underage drinking violations add up quickly. Costs can include fines, chemical dependency treatment, license reinstatement fees, attorney fees, and increased insurance premiums. In addition, a criminal or delinquency record may impact future employment, housing, and education opportunities.
Underage drinking may also involve other criminal charges, including:
(Minn. Stat. Ann. § § 171.22, 340A.503, 340A.703 (2016).)
Minnesota’s underage drinking and driving laws are complex, and the facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for underage drinking and driving, talk to an experienced DWI attorney in your area. A qualified DWI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.