Underage drinking is a serious problem. No one under 21 years old can possess or consume alcohol. Connecticut takes the subject of teenagers and alcohol very seriously. And if the teenager drives while they are intoxicated then they only make the problem worse.
Connecticut’s law provides for harsh criminal penalties, fines, and driver’s license suspensions for teenage alcohol use and possession. Most of us would agree that there are good policy reasons behind these underage drinking laws.
Teenage licenses are already limited right from the start. Teens under 18 years old, and those teenagers licensed for less than one year, have both curfew and passenger restrictions on their driving privileges. Also, teenagers are not experienced drivers. They are susceptible to fatigue when driving, particularly at night. Adding alcohol to these factors can lead to serious, if not fatal, consequences.
Four Principles to Keep in Mind
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Here are four Lady DUI Principles to apply to any situation involving teenagers and alcohol:
- Teens can’t buy alcohol. If your teenager illegally purchases alcohol or is caught trying to buy alcohol, they will be arrested and subject to a court fine.
- Teens can’t possess alcohol. If your teenager is caught in possession of alcohol in either a private or public place, they will be subject to arrest and prosecution.
- If caught, the DMV will suspend their driver’s license. In addition to the court penalties they face, the DMV will suspend the teenager’s driver’s license too. When a teenager is caught in possession of alcohol, they will receive a 30-day driver’s license suspension. When a teenager is caught in possession of alcohol in a car while on the roads, they receive a 60-day driver’s license suspension.
- Additional school suspension could follow. Most public schools will place their own restrictions on teenagers caught in possession of alcohol. For example, students who play sports could be suspended from their teams. Check your teen’s Student Handbook and other school policies for more information on the types of administrative actions your teenager’s school may take against them.
Teenagers and DUI
Police are really strict about teenage drivers who operate under the influence of alcohol. Since driving is a privilege, every driver, including teenagers, is presumed to have given consent to the police to perform tests to determine the driver’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) when the police suspect that the driver is operating under the influence of alcohol.
Drivers under 21 years old cannot have a BAC of .02 or higher. Practically speaking, drinking any amount of alcohol will result in a .02 BAC. A glass of beer or wine will more than do it.
Any driver under age 21 convicted of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol (or drugs) faces both court and DMV penalties. In court, teens face possible jail time or a suspended sentence, alcohol treatment, probation, and nearly an $800 fine.
In addition, the DMV will suspend their driver’s license for 45 days, and will require installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed in their car for one year. An IID is a breathalyzer device connected directly to the car’s engine. If the IID detects alcohol on the driver’s breath, the device will temporarily lock the car’s engine, and it will send a report to the DMV. Bad reports usually result in more charges, additional license suspensions, and more time using the IID.
I encourage all parents to speak openly with their teenage children about the dangers of underage alcohol use and driving while under the influence of alcohol.
As always, if you have any specific questions, my team and I are here to help. Simply contact us for more information.