What are the consequences of operating a motor vehicle under the influence (DUI) while under the age of 21?

Under 21 DUI

Operating a motor vehicle under the influence while under the age of 21 in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is against the law, just as it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle under the influence while over age of 21. The main difference is the permissible blood-alcohol concentration.

If you are over 21, it is illegal to operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle under the influence or with a BAC above 0.08 within 2 hours of cessation of operation per KRS 189a.010(1)(a), (b), and (c). However, if you are under the age of 21, the BAC threshold is lowered. If the driver is under 21, they may not have a BAC above 0.02, per KRS 189a.010(1)(f) within 2 hours of cessation of operation. An under-21 DUI is also known as “Kiddie DUI.

The permissible BAC for under-21 drivers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is 4 times lower than it is for those over 21. Which makes sense, if you think about it, since it is illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to purchase or possess alcoholic beverages in the Kentucky. See KRS 244.085.

KRS 189a.010(6) outlines the penalties if you’re convicted under the Kiddie DUI statute:

  • 30-180 day driver’s license suspension,
  • $100-500 fine (or 20 hours community service in lieu of a fine), and
  • Completion of a 90-day alcohol treatment or education program (KRS 189a.040(1)).

Furthermore, if a person is in violation of the Kiddie DUI statute, KRS 189a.010(7) states that if the individual registers a BAC of 0.08 or greater, the penalties will be the adult DUI penalties:

  • $200 – 500 Fine
  • 2 to 30 Days in Jail*
  • 90 Days of Alcohol or Substance Abuse Program
  • 30 to 120 Day License Suspension
  • Possible 48 Hours – 30 Days Community Labor

*If aggravating circumstances are present-4 days imprisonment

Luckily, however, a conviction under the Kiddie DUI statute does not affect future DUIs for enhancement purposes. See KRS 189a.010(5)(e). So if you are convicted of a DUI while you’re under 21, and then within a 5-year period are charged with another DUI (when you are over the age of 21), that “second” DUI will be considered as a “first” offense DUI statutorily and by the court.

Thus, the penalties for a Kiddie DUI are very similar to those of an adult DUI. Note that not all states are born equal. Some states have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to under-21 DUIs — meaning, registering any BAC above 0.00 is a criminal offense (Illinois is a good example; 625 ILCS 5/11-501.1(c)). Further, other states have longer mandatory license suspensions to deter underage drinking and driving, e.g. California’s license suspension is one year. See CVC §23136.

If you need help with a “kiddie” or adult Kentucky DUI charge, you need competent and experienced counsel to help you with your case. Do not delay, call the DUI Guy today.


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