What Happens if you Get a DWI with your Learner’s Permit?
Getting arrested under suspicion of DWI in Minneapolis is never a positive experience. Adult drivers could face time behind bars as well as the prospect of losing their license if they are convicted. Drivers under the age of 18 also face steep penalties, especially where their driving privileges are concerned.
In some cases, a driver that holds a learner’s permit could see it revoked due to a DWI. What’s more, it could take months or even years before that individual has the right to seek a new license. This could have a dramatic impact on the ability to get to work or school.
Legal help is available for teenagers in this situation. The attorneys of Gerald Miller are experienced with fighting back against DWI allegations. We could use our experience to help your child avoid a conviction while protecting their driving privileges. Reach out to our DWI defense lawyer as soon as possible to learn more.
What the “Zero Tolerance” Law Means For You
The unfortunate news for underage drivers is that it takes very little to run into trouble when drinking and driving. For adults, there is a legal limit that does not criminalize every act of driving after consuming alcohol. As long as an adult driver is below the legal limit when they are behind the wheel, they could avoid a criminal charge. That is not the case with minors thanks to what is known as the “zero tolerance” policy.
The zero tolerance policy is found at Minnesota Statutes Section 169A.33. Unlike with adults, there is no legal limit that applies to anyone under the age of 21. This is because the legal drinking age in MN is 21 and up. Instead, the statute makes it unlawful for:
a person under the age of 21 years to drive, operate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while consuming alcoholic beverages, or after having consumed alcoholic beverages while there is physical evidence of the consumption present in the person’s body.
The language of this statute does mirror the law as it applies to adults. Specifically, it is unlawful for a minor to drive, operate, or be in physical control of a vehicle after drinking. These terms are intentional broad, ensuring that the police could make an arrest even if a teenager was not actually driving
Being in physical control of the vehicle means having the ability to operate the vehicle at a moment’s notice. That often means being in or around the vehicle while possessing the keys. Prosecutors are not shy about pursuing DWI charges based on physical control, especially if the accused was in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition at the time of the arrest.
Underage Drivers and DWI
The zero tolerance rules are designed to apply to individuals that are below the legal drinking age in MN who have a low amount of alcohol in their system. That does not mean the consequences associated with this charge are as serious as it gets for a minor.
The DWI statute is found at Minnesota Statute Section 169A.20. It makes it unlawful for a person to drive, operate, or have physical control of a motor vehicle while they are impaired. The state has seven ways they can prove impairment, which include:
- the person is under the influence of alcohol;
- the person is under the influence of a controlled substance;
- the person is under the influence of an intoxicating substance and the person knows or has reason to know that the substance has the capacity to cause impairment;
- the person is under the influence of a combination of any two or more of the elements named in clauses (1) to (3);
- the person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of the motor vehicle is 0.08 or more;
- the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle and the person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of the commercial motor vehicle is 0.04 or more; or
- the person’s body contains any amount of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II, or its metabolite, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols.
In most cases, the prosecution will rely on the fifth paragraph, which is related to a driver’s blood alcohol concentration. If a teenager is over the legal limit, they will face DWI charges. If they are under the limit but still register positive for alcohol, the zero tolerance rules come into play.
The good news for underage drivers charged with DWI is that the same defenses available to adults could also be available to them. In many cases, it could be possible to fight back against a DWI charge as a minor. The attorneys of Gerald Miller could
Understanding how a DWI Impacts a Learner’s Permit
Whether a teenager is cited under the zero tolerance statute or arrested for a full-blown DWI offense, the impact these charges will have on a learner’s permit can be significant. In many ways, a minor faces steeper consequences—at least when it comes to driving privileges.
All drivers face the prospect of having their driving privileges revoked. For adults, this could result in the loss of driving privileges for months or even years. However, there are provisions that allow adults in many situations to seek emergency permits that allow them to drive to work or school as long as they install an ignition interlock device.
The rules regarding a minor are not as forgiving. If a motorist under the age of 18 has any detectable alcohol in their system, their learner’s permit will be revoked. If they have already reached the age of 17 and secured their driving license, the license will be suspended. What’s more, these privileges will remain suspended until the minor reaches the age of 18.
Once the minor reaches the age of 18, they will have the opportunity to seek a new license. However, they must begin the process all over again. Even if they had a license or permit prior to their arrest, they must start all of over and retake all necessary tests.
Defending a Minor Against a DWI Charge
The criminal offense of DWI is defensible. In other words, there is no guarantee that an arrest on this charge will lead to a conviction. If your child is facing a DWI arrest, there are a number of defense strategies that could help them avoid a conviction. Some of these defense strategies are also useful in fighting back against zero tolerance cases.
Challenging the Stop
One of the most important defense strategies related to underage DWI and no tolerance violations involves the traffic stop itself. The police do not have the right to pull over your child’s vehicle on a whim. They must have a reasonable suspicion that they have either committed a crime or a moving violation. Often, this involves an officer witnessing a driver make a violation like speeding or failing to yield.
If the police initiate a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion, they have violated a driver’s rights. That means any evidence obtained following the stop could be excluded from trial. This includes the breath test result that could confirm a teenager had alcohol in their system.
Challenging the Test
Another strong defense option involves disputing the admissibility of a blood, breath, or urine test. There are strict requirements that must be followed in order to collect or test these samples. If the police fail to adhere to them, the results could be barred from trial.
Discuss the Facts About DWIs and Permits with Gerald Miller
If your loved one is below the legal drinking age in MN, any alcohol-related traffic violation could have serious consequences. The good news is that the right legal counsel could help avoid those consequences.
Do you have questions regarding your child’s learner’s permit? If they have been charged with an alcohol-related offense, the attorneys of Gerald Miller are here to help. Contact us right away for your free consultation.