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Why are DUI laws stricter on underage drivers?

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2024 | Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving, Dui |

All drivers are responsible for operating their vehicles as safely as possible. This is why driving under the influence (DUI) of either alcohol or a controlled substance is a criminal offense in Nebraska and other U.S. states, because a drunk or intoxicated driver endangers themselves and others.

But what if an officer cites a driver under 21 for DUI? The law is extremely strict on underage drivers – so much, that even the smallest hint of alcohol can lead to charges and penalties.

So, why are Nebraska’s DUI laws stricter on underage drivers?

State law on underage DUI

While for the most part, the penalties for an underage driver convicted for DUI remain the same, the threshold for charges is much lower.

An underage driver only has to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of at least .02% to face DUI charges, compared to the regular .08% threshold for adult drivers. This “zero tolerance policy” means even a trace amount of alcohol in the underage driver’s blood is enough to lead to charges.

If an underage driver is caught with a BAC of .02 or above, authorities will immediately fine them for $100, and impound their license for 30 days.

Underage drinking is prohibited

The main reason why underage drivers face stricter DUI laws is because Nebraska also prohibits underage drinking for minors 18 and under. Underage drinking is a crime, and the first offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to three months in jail and $1,000 in fines.

The court also has the option of impounding the underage driver’s license for 30 days as part of the punishment and require them to attend an alcohol education class.

An underage driver charged with DUI may also face charges for drinking as a minor.

Whether they’re underage or adult, all drivers must drive responsibly and without being drunk. If you’re the parent or guardian of a minor facing charges, consider consulting a legal professional to protect the child’s rights in court. Even if the child only had the smallest amount of alcohol in their system during the offense, a conviction would lead to a criminal record that can impact their future.