Underage DUI in Nebraska

The consequences of driving under the influence for a person under 21 years of age.

By , Attorney

With a few exceptions, consumption and possession of alcohol by a person under 21 years of age is illegal in Nebraska. A person under the age of 21 who operates a vehicle while intoxicated can be charged with DUI, as well as other crimes and violations.

This article discusses the laws and consequences associated with a DUI offense committed in Nebraska by a person who's under 21 years old.

How Driving Under the Influence is Defined

In Nebraska, all drivers are prohibited from operating or being in "actual physical control" of a motor vehicle:

However, Nebraska has even stricter laws against underage drinking and driving. For drivers under the age of 21 years, there's a law that prohibits operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08%. Underage drivers can be prosecuted under Nebraska's version of a "zero-tolerance law," the adult DUI laws, or both.

Penalties for Zero-Tolerance Offenses

Under Nebraska's implied consent law, a police officer can require a person who's under the age of 21 years to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT) if there's probable cause to believe the person was driving with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08%. An underage offender who refuses or fails the PBT will be arrested and required to take a blood and/or breath test.

If the blood or breath test indicates a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08%, the driver can be convicted of a traffic infraction. Upon a conviction, the underage motorist's license will be impounded by the court for 30 days.

An underage driver who refuses a chemical test can be convicted of a traffic infraction and will face a license impoundment for 90 days.

An offender whose license has been impounded can drive for purposes of employment.

The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will expunge the violation from the driver's record after 90 days. However, if the underage driver refused to submit to chemical testing, the violation won't be expunged for 120 days.

Penalties for Underage Offenders Whose BAC is .08% or More

A person under the age of 21 years whose BAC is .08% or more is subject to the same penalties as an adult DUI offender. In addition to administrative (license-related) penalties, there are also criminal penalties imposed if an underage offender is convicted of DUI in court.

Administrative penalties: Generally, the DMV will administratively revoke the license of any driver who has a BAC of .08% or more or refuses to submit to a chemical test as follows:

  • BAC of .08% or more. The person's license will be revoked for 180 days as long as the person doesn't have any prior license revocations. If the motorist has any prior license revocations, the revocation is for one year.
  • Refusal. The revocation is for one year if the motorist refused chemical testing.

Criminal penalties: A first DUI conviction is a class W misdemeanor. The criminal penalties imposed depend on the defendant's BAC and whether probation or a suspended sentence is imposed. Straight conviction sentences generally include:

Probationary sentences typically imposed for first offenses include:

  • no minimum jail time (if BAC is less than .15%)
  • up to 60 days in jail with a minimum of either two days in jail or 120 hours of community service (if BAC is .15% or more)
  • a $500 fine
  • a license revocation of 60 days to one year, and
  • an alcohol assessment and treatment.

Penalties usually increase for subsequent DUI convictions.

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