What You Need to Know if Your Teenager Gets a DUI

An underage DUI can have lasting consequences for your teenager

Tennessee law enforcement has little tolerance for underage drinking, let alone underage drinking and driving. If you are under the age of 21 and found to have a blood alcohol level of at least .02 percent while you are driving, you can be arrested for underage driving while impaired. This is also true if there is evidence that the teen was driving after consuming legal medications or controlled substances.

Teenagers aged 16-18 arrested for underage driving while impaired may be found guilty of the commission of a delinquent act. This can result in a one-year driver’s license suspension and a $250 fine. Those aged 18-21 will face a Class A misdemeanor with the same penalties. It is up to judicial discretion to impose any additional punishments which may include losing driving privileges until 21 years of age and community service. Indirect, but severe nonetheless, consequences of a criminal conviction can include jeopardizing a person’s chances at getting into college, securing employment, or finding adequate housing.

Facing an underage driving while impaired charge is serious, but there are ways to successfully challenge it in court. Common defenses include:

  • Suppressing wrongfully obtained evidence;
  • Lack of probable cause for arrest;
  • Improper alcohol testing; or
  • Improper arrest procedures.

These defenses can lead to lesser charges or a complete dismissal of charges altogether.

If there is a conviction, an underage driving while impaired charge may be expunged, unless specifically excluded by Tennessee law. For the conviction to be expunged, the applicant;

  • Must be at least 18 years of age;
  • Must wait at least one year after their last juvenile adjudication;
  • Must have a court rule that the applicant had good behavior for the one year prior to the request, including the fact that the applicant was not convicted of any subsequent crimes; and
  • Pay all court fees and fines in full.