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Consequences of a DUI for underage drivers

Facing DUI charges can be terrifying for anyone. Whether it’s your first offense, you refused to consent to a breath test or more, the consequences can be steep and you may wonder how the penalties may affect your life.

For underage drivers, the effects of a DUI conviction can be even more devastating. While South Carolina enforces a legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% for drivers over 21, the state has a “zero tolerance” policy for underage drivers. Drivers under the age of 21 in high school or college may face significant penalties if their BAC level is over 0.02%.

Criminal penalties for a first-time DUI

South Carolina’s zero-tolerance law means that a driver may face charges for even a small amount of alcohol in their system. Underage drivers can face substantial criminal penalties from a first-time DUI conviction, including fines of up to $400 and up to 30 days in jail. These penalties will worsen after subsequent offenses or if the charges involve harm to others, property damage or more.

Other consequences resulting from the offense

Criminal penalties are far from the only penalties underage drivers may face following a DUI arrest. You may also face administrative penalties from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A first-time offense can lead to a driver’s license suspension for three months. If you refused to consent to a breath test, this suspension could extend to six months.

Underage drivers may face additional penalties, including:

  • Community service. Depending on your offense, the court may require you to complete 48 hours or more of community service.
  • Increased insurance premiums. Your auto insurance premiums can significantly increase after a DUI and remain that way indefinitely.
  • A criminal record. A first-time DUI offense can lead to the start of your criminal record, which can affect your future employment prospects.
  • Loss of scholarships. Some colleges, high schools, programs and more may revoke scholarship offers upon discovering or learning of the offense.
  • Loss of eligibility for extracurriculars. Likewise, some schools or programs may suspend student athletes or others from participating in extracurriculars.

When you face DUI charges as an underage driver, your options to fight the charges you face and minimize penalties can seem scarce. Protect your future by working with an attorney to avoid a conviction on your record.


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