Minors arrested for driving under the influence in West Virginia will face a number of different penalties. In this blog post, we will review in more detail the state’s underage DUI laws, as well as the penalties for related offenses like minor in possession.
Underage DUI Laws
In West Virginia, the legal drinking age is 21 years old, and consumption of alcohol by anyone under this age is subject to legal penalties. Note that the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) requirement in a driving under the influence (DUI) charge is stricter for those under 21. A DUI based on BAC (as opposed to the driver’s level of impairment) is often called a “per se” DUI. The illegal BAC an underage driver must have to be charged with a per se DUI is .02%, much harsher than the standard .08% BAC for a conventional DUI.
Underage offenders will face fines and jail time comparably lighter than a regular DUI, but they will lose their license for 60 days and/or until they are at least 18 years old, if applicable. A first-time DUI conviction for an underage driver will likely warrant up to 6 months of imprisonment and a fine up to $1,000.
Note that following an underage DUI, some insurance companies may terminate an individual’s policy, though most companies will simply raise the cost of the monthly premium by $100-$200 for a higher risk policy. The raise usually stays in place for 3-5 years, during which the driver may also need to furnish the DMV with an SR-22 certificate to reinstate their license after suspension as proof of insurability.
Recall that West Virginia also implements “implied consent” laws that require all drivers lawfully arrested for a DUI to submit to a blood or breath test. If the driver submits to and fails the BAC test, the revocation period will be the same as for a DUI conviction (even if the criminal charges are dismissed). If the driver refused to submit to the officer’s request for a BAC test, their driver’s license will be revoked for:
- First offense – 1 year
- Second offense – 10 years
- Third offense – lifetime
In addition to driving under the influence, an underage drinker may be charged with related charges:
- distributing alcohol to other minors (e.g. underage drunk passengers were present);
- minor in possession;
- soliciting alcohol;
- child endangerment law violations;
- possession of false identification (e.g. a fake ID was used to purchase alcohol); and
- moving and vehicle maintenance violations.
West Virginia Minimum Age Laws
A minor younger than 21 in West Virginia may not buy, possess, consume, or sell alcohol, with few exceptions such as if a relative by blood or marriage provides the alcohol and is present when they drink it. It is also illegal for a minor to knowingly provide false information about their own age in order to obtain alcohol or non-intoxicating beer. A violation of West Virginia’s minor in possession laws is a misdemeanor, which can carry a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 72 hours in jail (or a juvenile detention facility). The judge may decide to order up to 1 year of probation in lieu of jail time for first offenses.
Also note that an adult may not knowingly buy for, give, or furnish alcohol or non-intoxicating beer to minors. Adults who provide alcohol to minors may be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days to 6 months in jail and/or a fine between $25-$500. An adult may defend against a conviction if they reasonably relied on photographic identification or other facts that indicated that the minor was not underage at the time of the sale, and the adult had no other reason to believe that the minor was underage.
Seek a DUI Lawyer to Represent You
If you or your child has been charged with an underage DUI in West Virginia, consult a lawyer immediately. Depending on the severity of the offense, a good lawyer can argue for mitigated or minimum penalties. It is also advisable to enlist the help of an attorney on your underage DUI case because there is a chance you may also face additional related charges, such as minor in possession.
Let The Wagner Law Firm take a look at your situation in a free case evaluation today.