Understanding the consequences of underage drunk driving in Missouri

When those under the age of 21-years-old consume alcohol and get behind the wheel, they could face criminal charges and potentially serious penalties.

The legal drinking age in Missouri, like other states across the U.S., is 21-years-old. Sometimes, however, teenagers and other young adults under the age of 21 may consume alcoholic beverages. If they then choose to get behind the wheel, they could face criminal charges, including underage DUI.

What is the legal blood alcohol limit?

Most people in Missouri know that the legal limit for adult drivers is .08 percent. The state has a zero tolerance policy for underage motorists. According to a Missouri state report on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking, the legal limit drops down to 0.02 percent for those who are under 21-years-old. Consequently, young people may face criminal charges and penalties after having only a drink or two.

Driver's license suspension

As a part of Missouri's zero tolerance for underage drunk driving, those who are not of age could lose their driving privileges for any alcohol-related traffic offense. Depending on the circumstances, their driver's licenses may be suspended for between 30 and 90 days. If people under the age of 16-years-old is charged with an alcohol-related traffic offense, the Missouri State Highway Patrol points out that they will be unable to obtain their driver's licenses until they are 17-years-old.

Jail time

In the state of Missouri, a first-time driving under the influence charge is generally considered a class B misdemeanor. State law specifies that those convicted of this offense may face up to six months in jail. For young adults, this could have a significant impact on their future education and employment opportunities.

Other consequences

In addition to the potential for a driver's license suspension and the possibility of jail time, young drivers may face a number of other penalties as a result of underage drunk driving. As a result of a DUI charge, they may be fined up to $500. Additionally, drivers under the age of 21-years-old who are found with a BAC level of 0.02 percent or higher are required to complete a substance abuse traffic offender program, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The young people themselves are responsible for the cost of this program, as well as a $249 fine that must be paid to the state's Department of Mental Health.

Furthermore, they may have as many as eight points added to their driver's licenses. This could result in a revocation of their driving privileges for up to one year if they have accumulated 12 points on their license within a 12-month period, 18 points on their license within a 24-month period or 24 points on their license within a 36-month period.

Working with an attorney

For those under the legal drinking age in Missouri, drunk driving charges carry potentially serious penalties. Therefore, the consequences of one choice could profoundly affect their futures. In order to help protect their rights, young people who are facing alcohol-related traffic offenses may benefit from obtaining legal representation. An attorney may help them understand their options, as well as develop a strong criminal defense.