Underage vs Regular DUI: What’s the Difference Between a DUI Under 21 and Criminal DUI

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Underage drinking is common among high school and college students all over. It is a right of passage and in most cases not that big of a deal.

Drinking at someone’s house party in high school or college, we have all done from time to time. It’s when you try to purchase alcohol as a minor or when you drink and drive underage that it can become an issue. south

Drinking and driving is against the law no matter what, and with Uber and Lyft these days, drinking and driving shouldn’t even be a consideration but as we all know too well, DUI continues to be an issue.

Most people don’t intend to get a DUI. Maybe you were at that friend’s party and only had a drink or two and thought you were fine and decided to drive home. You end up getting stopped by the police, still thinking you’re fine.

You agree to the field breath test and your BAC is .06%. If you’re over 21 that is NOT considered to be legally drunk in Nevada.

If you’re under 21 you are considered to be drunk in Nevada since the BAC for people under the age of 21 is .02%.

That’s just one example of how different the DUI laws are for underage defendants versus legal-age defendants.

The standard is stricter because underage drinking is illegal in Nevada anyway, so the laws are stricter because you have already committed a crime before you are arrested for drunk driving. Since it is against the law to drink under the age of 21, Nevada has established a zero-tolerance policy for underage DUI.

A person of legal age can have a BAC of .08 or lower and is not considered to be drunk. That is four times higher than the BAC of .02 that a person under the age of 21 is considered intoxicated while driving.

This means someone under the age of 21 could only have a few sips of alcohol and be arrested for DUI.

Does an Underage DUI Case in Nevada Go to Criminal or Juvenile Court

This depends on two factors:

  1. The driver’s age, and
  2. The type of Drunk Driving offense

Drivers that are 18-20 years of age at the time of the offense are prosecuted as adults in criminal court. It does not matter whether they are charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI.

Drivers under the age of 18 who are arrested for misdemeanor DUI or first or second-offense DUI are prosecuted in Juvenile Court.

Drivers who are arrested for Felony DUI, or DUI third offense, or causing death or bodily injury can be prosecuted in either juvenile or criminal court.

In order to prosecute a minor in criminal court a judge must “certify” the minor as an adult.

The judge has the discretion to grant this certification request or not.

Certification as a minor means to make a minor an adult for the purposes of trial and penalties.

DUI Penalties for Underage DUI

All underage DUI defendants must submit to an alcohol and drug evaluation to determine if they have a substance abuse problem.

This evaluation is paid for by the defendant at an average cost of $100.

All other penalties associated with the DUI offense are based on whether or not the defendant is prosecuted in juvenile or criminal court.

DUI First Offense Penalties: Juvenile vs Adult

Penalties Juvenile Court Adult/Criminal Court
  • Community service and/or
  • Fines
$400-$1000 fine
Jail A suspended juvenile hall sentence

Will not be imposed as long as the defendant completes the other sentencing terms

Six-month suspended jail term

The defendant will not do any jail time as long as all other sentencing requirements are met

  • Educational classes or DUI classes
  • An order to not be arrested or get any other citations
  • License suspension of at least 90 days
  • DUI school
  • MADD impact class
  • Order to avoid any further arrests or citations
  • Place ignition interlock device in all vehicles
  • Suspended license

A juvenile who is convicted as an adult of DUI will receive the same penalties as an adult.

Juvenile DUI convictions are given different penalties and they are based on the severity of the offense and more lenient than an adult conviction.

DUI Second Offense Penalties: Juvenile vs Adult

A second offense DUI is considered to be a second offense if you are convicted of a DUI within seven years of your first conviction.

After a seven-year period, a DUI offense is considered a first offense again regardless of your age.

Penalties Juvenile Court Adult/Criminal Court
  • Community service and/or
  • Fines (substantially more than the first offense DUI)
$750-$1000 fine
Jail A suspended juvenile hall sentence 10 days to 6 months
  • Educational classes or DUI classes
  • An order to not be arrested or get any other citations
  • License suspension
  • DUI assessment program
  • DUI school
  • MADD impact class
  • Place ignition interlock device in all vehicles
  • 1-year license suspension

The penalties are not set for juvenile court and all penalties are up to the judge to decide.

For a second offense DUI, jail time can be served on weekends or on house arrest with a monitor.

You need an experienced lawyer to avoid going to jail for a second DUI.

DUI Third Offense Penalties: Juvenile vs Adult

A Third offense DUI is considered a felony DUI.

Also, if a person causes bodily injury or death to another, they can also be charged with felony DUI regardless of the number of the offense or the time that passed.

If you have caused the death of another during a DUI your first offense could be charged with a felony DUI.

Minors between the ages of 18 and 20 can be charged as an adult for felony DUI. Depending on the case and the age of the defendant, anyone under the age of 18 can be charged as an adult if the minor is certified by the court to be an adult.

The Penalties for a felony or 3rd offense DUI are:

  • 2 to 20 years in state prison
  • $2000 to $5000 fine
  • A 3 year license suspension
  • A required ignition interlock device in all vehicles
  • MADD impact class
  • DUI school
  • Drug and alcohol assessment

Can My Underage DUI Conviction Be Sealed?

Most crimes, including some murder cases, are sealed if they are prosecuted in juvenile court since the defendants are under the age of 18.

Sealing an underage DUI conviction depends on 2 factors:

  1. Was the case tried in juvenile or criminal court
  2. Was the DUI a misdemeanor or felony charge

Juvenile Court

Juvenile cases are automatically sealed when the defendant turns 21.

A request can be made to have the case sealed earlier but must wait at least three years after the case closes.

Criminal Court

DUI convictions can be sealed in criminal or adult court but it depends on the conviction

  • Felony DUI: never can be sealed
  • Misdemeanor DUI first or second offense: sealed after 7 years
  • Reckless driving: 1 year after the case is over

The Defenders Criminal Defense Attorneys - Best of Las Vegas Gold WinnerFacing Underage DUI Charges?

If you’re in criminal trouble in Nevada, welcome to the law firm that can help.

The Defenders is a criminal defense law firm whose lawyers defend clients arrested or charged with DUIs, felonies, misdemeanors, domestic violencesex crimes, murder, drug possessionwhite collar crimes and more than a dozen other criminal case categories.

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First, time is critical. You need help now, before the trouble gets any deeper.

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You need to work with a Nevada-based law firm, one whose lawyers know the ins and outs of the local court system and laws.

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