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Michigan Underage DUI Lawyer

Because it is illegal for those under the age of 21 to consume alcohol in Michigan, the State has enacted a tough Zero Tolerance law for underage drivers who operate a vehicle while intoxicated. Under this law, anyone under the age of 21 who has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02% to .07% can be arrested for an operating while intoxicated (OWI) Zero Tolerance offense.  If you or your child is facing a Michigan OWI Zero Tolerance charge, an experienced DUI defense lawyer may be able to obtain an acquittal or get your charges reduced.

While there is no jail time for a first OWI Zero Tolerance offense, an underage defendant could be sentenced to up to 360 hours of community service in addition to a $250 fine. A person charged with a second OWI Zero Tolerance offense within seven years could face up to 93 days in jail, 60 days of community service, and a $500 fine.

Although a first OWI Zero Tolerance offense does not include incarceration, you should still fight this charge. Prior convictions are taken into account when determining the sentence for any future OWI violations. This means that if a driver over 21 charged with OWI had a Zero Tolerance conviction in the past, he or she may be charged with an OWI second offense.

However, the law states that only one Zero Tolerance conviction can be used to enhance the charge, which means that if the driver had two violations in the past, he or she could not be charged with a felony third offense.  In other words, one zero tolerance plus two more OWI convictions equals a felony.

Determining Impairment

Police use the same NHTSA standardized field sobriety testing with under 21 drivers to determine whether or not an individual is impaired or intoxicated. The fact of the matter is even if a minor has small amounts of alcohol, the police will still run through the normal side of the road tests prior to conducting a preliminary breath test in order to establish probable cause.

Even if they are able to pass the tests as far as standard field sobriety testing, as long as there is any amount of alcohol in the system detected by the breathalyzer or blood test, they can still be charged and prosecuted for OWI.

Heightened Consequences of Underage DUI

A judge can increase the penalties of an underage DUI at his or her discretion. There is the possibility of a minor being charged with an adult DUI offense and having to suffer the same consequences that an adult would. Since the person is legally unable to drink alcoholic beverages, the judge may try and make an example or a lesson out of them. This is where the judge would take a special interest and potentially sentence a minor to write an essay, take an alcohol education course, have more community service hours, or even spend some time in jail even though this is fairly rare.

Higher BAC Penalties

If an underage driver has a BAC of .08% or higher, he or she may be charged with a standard OWI. A much more serious offense, the potential penalties for a conviction could include up to 93 days in jail, increased fines, community service, a driver’s license revocation, and mandatory alcohol treatment.

Being convicted of a criminal offense before adulthood can have a lasting effect on a person’s future, which is why having an experienced Michigan OWI defense lawyer on your side is so important. The Barone Defense Firm has successfully handled many Michigan OWI Zero Tolerance cases, and we would like to help you fight yours.

Long Term Penalties of Underage DUI 

Apart from the criminal consequences, being an underaged minor that is convicted of a DUI has other implications that can alter the future. Depending on the employer, a conviction of a DUI while underaged can prove as unacceptable, leading them to seek alternative candidates.

It can also impact possible future career choices. An individual who wants a career within the transportation field such as a truck driver, pilot, ship captain, or any other transportation jobs is going to have a very difficult time getting into those positions because of a drunk driving charge that is on their record. Being convicted of an underage DUI will also affect whether or not an individual could pass an ethics review. People such as doctors and lawyers take the record of an individual into consideration.

Also, a conviction can make it difficult to get into a specific school or educational program. As part of the admission process, schools check the record of their applicants when making decisions as to who to admit and not admit.

Case Process

Underage OWI is a serious matter and a conviction will be marked as a misdemeanor on their permanent criminal record and could be used as a prior offense if there is another conviction in the future. Additionally, there is the possibility of jail time if the individual is unable to meet the judge’s conditions, all of which make contact with a Michigan underage OWI lawyer imperative.

Minors with any BAC are going to be heard in Michigan district courts. It is unlikely that it would ever be brought to a circuit court unless it was attached to an actual felony. It is very important that defendants do treat this like a regular drunk driving charge, an operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan, because it is going to be treated very similar to that by the court.

Minors Being Tried as Adults

Cases in which a judge decides to apply adult trail processes to a minor for DUI is not a common occurrence. With an adult charge, as stated previously, there is a possibility of a jail sentence among other consequences associated with an adult conviction.  A skilled attorney will do their best to avoid that circumstance by suggesting to enroll their client into these rehabilitation programs, and especially educational programs as an alternative to adult sentencing.

The purpose of theses suggestions would be to change the judge’s opinion of their client. Again, this will all depend on the judge’s interpretation on what needs to be done in order to prevent this behavior from reoccurring. For example, there are judges who refrain from sentencing an of age DUI offender to a jail sentence, but will readily do the opposite for an underage offender because of the fact that it was illegal for them to consume alcoholic beverages in the first place. Some judges, despite their opinion of the accused, will be very difficult to convince that an alternative sentence is the correct course of action.

Prosecution and Judges Treatment

There are certain judges and prosecutors that are much more lenient when it comes to somebody a little underage because they feel that maybe they should be given a break. On the other side of the coin, there are certain judges and prosecutors that actually are very hard on people who are drinking underage and driving in order to teach them a lesson now and prevent it happening again in the future. They will impose greater penalties than a traditional adult OWI conviction would receive, such as essays, curfews, and things of that nature, making it important those charged have an underage OWI attorney in Michigan who is familiar with the local court system and it’s judges.

Preemptive Strategies

Also enrolling into rehabilitation or alcohol education programs during/before the trial would prove beneficial. These things could be educational programs, counseling, some kind of treatment, possible medication, or some kind of therapy that could be beneficial. Education is going to be the paramount one, especially with younger people, because a lot of times, it is just simply a lack of education and it is not because they are an alcoholic or anything along those lines.

It is also very important for any kind of treatment that is recommended, it is also suggested that an individual who is accused of an OUI to go through it and then provide any kind of proof that they are actually moving forward in a positive direction.