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In this article, our DWI attorney team provides an overview of underage DWI laws in Minnesota. Any motorist arrested and charged with drunk driving faces the prospect of significant penalties, from incarceration to significant fines to loss of driving privileges. The stakes dramatically increase if you are caught driving drunk while underage.

Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over .08 percent can result in the same penalties as an adult driver, but underage DWI offenders face additional penalties that may be imposed under a broader scope of circumstances.

“Zero Tolerance” Law for Underage DWI Offenders

Our Minneapolis DWI attorneys frequently talk to misinformed minors who assume that they do not have to worry about facing serious repercussions because they blew a 0.7 or lower. Unfortunately, the worst time to learn they are wrong is when an officer is pulling them over.

Minnesota DWI law for underage drivers includes a “zero tolerance” policy. Under M.S.A. §169A.33, a driver under the age of 21 years of age who is detected either “operating” or “in control” of a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in his or her body will be subject to special penalties.

If arrested and charged under Section 169A.33, the young person risks severe penalties against their driving privileges if the prosecutor is able to prove the charges. The motorist’s driver’s license will be suspended for thirty days for a first offense and 180 days for a second offense.

The situation goes from bad to worse for underage motorists with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or above. Along with the penalties indicated above, they also are subject to the full spectrum of penalties that can be imposed for DWI specified in M.S.A. 169A.54.

Underage Drunk Driving Has Steeper Penalties When Under 18

While all drivers under the age of 21 will lose their driver’s license if convicted of driving with a detectable amount of alcohol in their body, the situation is even worse if you are a minor (i.e. under 18). If you have already obtained your driver’s license, it will be suspended if any amount of measurable alcohol is detected when taking a breath or blood test. Further, you will not be able to reacquire your license until reaching the age of 18.

At that time, the underage driver must start the process of obtaining a driver’s license from the beginning. If you have not obtained a driver’s license (i.e. learner’s permit only) when you are cited for violating the zero tolerance law, you also will lose your permit and must wait until you are 18 to start the application process over again.

Violations by Minors When Not Driving

Many underage drivers mistakenly assume that they cannot be charged with DWI unless they are driving a motor vehicle. However, Minnesota DWI law only requires that an intoxicated individual is “in control” or “operating” the motor vehicle. The “control” element of the DWI offense has been broadly construed so that you could face DWI charges in the following situations:

  • A group of people standing outside the car with the keys in the ignition
  • A driver taking a nap in the driver’s seat with the keys in his pocket
  • Other situations when the keys are in the driver’s pocket in the general vicinity of the vehicle

Need Legal Advice?

If you are underage and facing the risk of losing your driving privileges, our experienced Minnesota DWI lawyers are here to help protect your rights, driving privileges, and record.

If you have been arrested for DWI in the Twin Cities or surrounding areas of Minnesota, we invite you to speak to one of our Minnesota DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start protecting your rights.

Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.


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