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DUI and Underage Drinking: Legal Consequences for Minors in Maryland

April 16, 2024
Cyndi Christiani

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Maryland and you are under 21, you need to be very careful to protect yourself. Underage DUIs carry steep penalties, and having a DUI on your permanent record can negatively impact your life for years to come.

Protecting yourself means making informed decisions, and this starts with understanding what is at risk in your underage DUI case. Here’s an overview of what you need to know:

Understanding Maryland’s “Zero Tolerance” Law for Underage Drinking and Driving

The first thing you need to know is that Maryland has a “zero tolerance” law for underage drinking and driving. While adults over the age of 21 can legally drive with up to a 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC), if you are under 21, you cannot have more than a 0.02 percent BAC behind the wheel.

For most people, having a single drink will elevate their BAC to 0.02 (or above)—which is why the law is referred to as “zero tolerance.” If you are under 21, even having a single drink in your system before driving means that you can be charged with a DUI.

Penalties for Underage DUI in Maryland

You will face two separate legal proceedings when you get arrested for driving under the influence in Maryland; not only will you face prosecution for your underage DUI in court, but you will also face an administrative license suspension by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).

MVA Driver’s License Suspension

After an underage DUI arrest in Maryland, the MVA can suspend your driver’s license before your case goes to trial. This is one of several reasons why it is important to speak with a lawyer as soon after your arrest as possible. In order to protect your driver’s license, you will need to attend an MVA hearing, and you will need to be able to successfully argue that suspending your driving privileges is unwarranted.

If you are not able to avoid a driver’s license suspension, you may be able to obtain a restricted license that allows you to drive to work or school. Your lawyer will be able to help you understand your options and communicate with the administrative law judge at the MVA on your behalf.

Criminal (or Juvenile) Penalties for Underage DUI

Beyond the administrative driver’s license suspension, the consequences of an underage DUI arrest in Maryland will depend, in part, on whether you are over or under age 18. If you are over 18, you will be prosecuted as an adult, and you will face the same penalties as someone charged with DUI over the age of 21. For a first-time offense, these penalties include:

  • Up to a year in jail
  • Up to a $1,000 fine 
  • Six-month driver’s license suspension
  • Mandatory participation in Maryland’s ignition interlock program

But, if you are under 18, you may be prosecuted as a juvenile. Juvenile cases are handled differently from criminal cases. Rather than facing a criminal conviction, juveniles face an “adjudication of delinquency.” When an underage DUI leads to an adjudication of delinquency, the judge will impose penalties focused on rehabilitation and restitution—which may include things like probation and a requirement to pay financial compensation to any victims. Detention is a possibility as well, though detention for underage DUI in juvenile delinquency cases is relatively rare.

The Consequences of Having an Underage DUI on Your Permanent Record

As a general rule, DUI convictions are not eligible for expungement in Maryland. This means that once you get a DUI, your DUI could very well stay with you for the rest of your life. Having a DUI on your permanent record can negatively impact your education and your career—and this is another reason why it is important to speak with an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Additional Consequences of Underage Drinking in Maryland

In addition to facing the underage DUI penalties discussed above, if you get arrested for driving under the influence while under 21 in Maryland, you could potentially face other charges (and penalties) as well. For example, depending on the circumstances involved, an underage DUI arrest in Maryland could also lead to charges for:

  • Implied Consent Violation – If you refused the breathalyzer during your underage DUI stop, you could be facing an additional charge for an implied consent violation. For a first-time offense, an implied consent violation carries an automatic 270-day driver’s license suspension.
  • Open Container Violation – If you have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle when you get pulled over, you can be charged with an open container violation as well. These violations carry fines, and they can also carry jail time in some cases.
  • Underage Purchase, Possession, or Consumption of Alcohol – In Maryland, purchasing, possessing, or consuming alcohol under the age of 21 is a misdemeanor offense that carries up to a $500 fine.
  • Underage Possession of a Fake ID – If you get caught with a fake ID in Maryland, you can face up to a $500 fine and two months of jail time. Possessing a fake ID can also result in points being added to your driving record and a possible driver’s license suspension.

Again, these are just examples. In addition to the charges discussed above, it is possible to face a variety of additional charges in varying circumstances. For example, if you have been charged with causing a serious or fatal accident while driving under the influence, you could be facing a felony charge for vehicular assault or vehicular manslaughter—and this means that you could be facing up to 10 years of prison time.

Request a Confidential Consultation with DUI Defense Attorney Cynthia Christiani

If you need to know more about the risks involved with facing an underage DUI in Maryland, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To request a confidential consultation with DUI defense attorney Cynthia Christiani, tell us how we can reach you online today.