The State of Illinois takes all instances of DUIs seriously, but it punishes people under the legal drinking age even more severely. This is because, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 25 percent of fatal car crashes involving teens include at least one underage drunk driver.
In order to deal with this issue, the state imposes the standard DUI penalties on underage drivers, and it also tacks on extra zero tolerance penalties. These zero tolerance penalties involve suspensions of driving privileges in circumstances beyond those that would ordinarily qualify as a DUI, and may even involve penalties accruing to the parents of the driver as well.
Standard DUI Penalties
Underage drivers under the influence of alcohol are still subject to standard DUI penalties, but these penalties differ from the DUI penalties for people over the age of 21 in two important respects. First, these penalties are harsher than ordinary DUI penalties. The penalties include a possible $2,500 fine and a license revocation of at least two years, along with up to a year in prison. A second offense comes with the same penalties except that the minimum license revocation increases to five years. Second, these penalties are easier for underage drinkers to trigger. Ordinarily, a DUI charge requires a person to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of greater than .08. This is still true for underage drinkers, unless there is other evidence proving they were impaired. If such evidence exists, the required BAC drops to .05.
Zero Tolerance Penalties
In addition to the above penalties for an actual DUI charge, underage drinkers can face a host of driving-related penalties. For instance, even if an underage driver registers below a .05, they may still face penalties under zero tolerance laws. Zero tolerance penalties apply to underage drivers who register more than a .00 BAC without triggering full DUI penalties. These zero tolerance penalties include a three-month suspension of driving privileges for a first offense, and a one year suspension for a second offense. Additionally, the law doubles these penalties if the young driver refuses to consent to the necessary testing.
The law also imposes extra penalties on the parents of underage drunk drivers in certain circumstances. If death or great bodily harm results from the parents knowingly allowing underage drinking in their home, then prosecutors may charge the parents with a class 4 felony, which comes with a prison sentence ranging from one to three years and a fine of up to $25,000. Additionally, the parents may be liable for any damage that occurs because of underage drinkers leaving the premises.
If you or your child has recently been charged with a DUI or similar crime, seek help from an Illinois DUI attorney. Our skilled team of lawyers serves clients across the northwest Chicago suburbs, including in Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, and Deer Park.
About the Author: Founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, Colin Gilbert, received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of law in 2005. Colin argues cases across many practice areas including criminal defense, collections, civil litigation, real estate law, and corporate law. Colin is an active member of the Board of Governors of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association and the Illinois Creditors Bar Association. He is currently Vice President of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, and is a Commissioner for the Village of Arlington Heights. Colin has a 10.0 Attorney rating on Avvo, and was named one of the 2014 “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyers in Illinois by the National Trial Lawyers Association.