If you were arrested for DUI and are under the age of 21 the potential consequences depend on your breath or blood results and the actual charge issued by the Whatcom County prosecutors or Bellingham prosecuting attorneys. However, if you are under the age of 21 you are at risk for being charged with a Minor DUI in Whatcom County.
If you were arrested for an alcohol DUI and your test result was between .02 and .08, you may have been charged with Driver Under 21 Consuming Alcohol (Minor DUI). Similarly, if you were arrested for driving under the influence and a blood test confirmed you had anyTHC (but less than 5 ng) in your system then you will also be charged with a Minor DUI. Either way, a minor DUI is a misdemeanor and a conviction may result in a sentence of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. These facts are important to know if you are a student at Western Washington University in Bellingham as the threshold for a DUI if you are under 21 is very low and the importance of this charge to law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys is very high.
Unlike a regular DUI in Bellingham, a Whatcom County Minor DUI conviction does not carry a mandatory minimum fine, jail sentence, license suspension, or ignition interlock requirement. However, it is typical for both the Whatcom County prosecutors and the Bellingham prosecutors to request jail even if it is not a mandatory condition of the conviction.
To prove a charge of Minor DUI, the City of Bellingham or State of Washington (Whatcom County District Court) must prove that 1) you are under 21, 2) The (accurate and reliable) breath or blood test result was at least .02 but less than .08 within two hours of driving or, if you were arrested for a marijuana DUI, the blood results had proof of your THC levels were more than 0 ng and less than 5 ng (anything more than 5 ng of THC is considered a regular DUI).
If the test was not administered within two hours of driving, the government may attempt to introduce expert testimony to show that the result would have been between .02 and .08 within two hours of driving. Drinking enough alcohol after driving but before the breath or blood test to fail the test is a defense to Minor DUI.
Even if you are under 21, should your BAC be over 0.08 (or even close to 0.08) the prosecuting attorney may charge you with a regular adult DUI rather than the less severe minor DUI. Similarly, if a blood draw resulted in 5 ng or more of TCH in your system then you may well be charged with a regular DUI. Such a charge would ultimately result in more severe penalties, even if you are under the age of 21.
Regardless of the outcome in court it is important to remember that any minor arrested for driving after consuming alcohol or marijuana (with proof that there is THC in the system) will also face an automatic 90-day license suspension by the Department of Licensing. The license suspension is separate and apart from the criminal penalties. The license suspension will begin 60 days from the date of the arrest unless a request for a hearing is submitted to the Department of Licensing. A hearing request form must be postmarked within 20 days from the date of the arrest for Minor DUI in Bellingham.
If you are under the age of 21 you have too much ahead of you to risk the consequences of a Minor DUI conviction or the harsh penalties that come with such an event. Contact one of our Bellingham Minor DUI lawyers for a complimentary consultation today.
Criminal Defense Attorney David N. Jolly
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