Many people don’t realize that the driving penalties for minors are severe if a minor is arrested for alcohol/drug related offenses in Washington State, and that there are some unique features of driving penalties for minors that are very different from those involving adults.

Minor DUI

Minor DUI is the shorthand for Driver Under 21 and Consuming Alcohol. It is different than an adult DUI in some important ways:

  • The legal limit for those under 21 is .02 instead of .08.
  • There is no mandatory jail time, fines or license suspension if convicted.
  • It is a simple misdemeanor instead of a gross misdemeanor.

In other ways, it is identical to an adult DUI. If you are arrested for minor DUI, when it comes to your driving penalties, you will have to go through the same administrative process and face the same administrative consequences as an adult. The court process is the same too.

Minor In Consumption/Possession Of Alcohol

One of the most common offenses is that of minor in consumption/possession of alcohol. If a person is under the age of 18, a conviction can result in loss of license even where the arrest did not involve driving. The primary statute governing minor suspensions is RCW 46.20.265. Of note, it is the date of the offense which determines the sanction.  For example, if the arrest occurred while the individual was a minor, a sanction will apply even if the conviction takes place after he/she turns eighteen. Some key points of emphasis to keep in mind:

  • Diversion agreements are considered a violation for purposes of imposing suspension penalties.
  • First violation requires a one year suspension or until the driver turns seventeen – whichever is longer.
  • Second violations requires a two year sanction or until the driver turns eighteen -whichever is longer
  • All sanctions are run consecutively until the driver turns twenty-one, at which time a driver can request reinstatement. However the burden is on the driver to pursue reinstatement prior to the end date of any running suspension; it is not automatic.
  • If a diversion agreement is involved, a driver can reinstate upon completion, so long as it has been a minimum of ninety days on a first offense and one year for a second offense.

The good news is that a court can permit early reinstatements: 1) after the longer of ninety days following the date of conviction, or when the driver turns sixteen for a first offense, and 2) after the longer of one year following the date of conviction, or when the driver turns seventeen for a second offense. But again, this process must be initiated by the individual and does not happen automatically.

Too Many Infractions

Finally, there are also driving penalties for minors with intermediate licenses based on the accumulation of traffic infractions. The first violation results in a letter being sent to the minor’s parents. For a second infraction, there is a six (6) month license suspension. If a minor gets a third infraction, their license will be suspended until the age of 18. The rules for minors in this regard are quite strict and differ significantly from the laws for adult drivers. When a minor is involved, it is important to consider the ramifications of any driving offense, especially any alcohol/drug conviction or deferral.  For additional information, please contact me at 206-849-0519.