Underage drunk driving is a serious problem. Teen alcohol consumption results in approximately 4,300 fatalities every year. To prevent minors from operating a vehicle while drunk, it is unlawful for minors to consume alcohol, except in the following situations:
- For religious ceremonies
- On private premises with the permission of a legal guardian
- For medical purposes
However, even if a minor lawfully consumes alcohol in these settings, it is always illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence.
The legal limit
Ohio laws treat underage drunk driving seriously. If the results of a chemical test show that a driver under the age of 21 has a BAC of at least .02%, he or she may face criminal charges for drunk driving. This is in comparison to the BAC limit of .08% for drivers over 21. However, the underage limit is slightly more lenient than other states. Some states have zero-tolerance laws, which makes it unlawful for underage motorists to have any amount of detectable alcohol in their systems, even if it is under .02%.
The penalties depend on the BAC. A drunk driving offense between .02% and .08% is punishable by a fine of $250, 30 days in jail and a license suspension of at least 90 days. With a BAC over .08%, the penalties include a fine of $1,000, one year in jail and a license suspension of three years. Certain auto insurance companies may also terminate or refuse to renew policies for underage drunk drivers. Others may raise the monthly premium costs by hundreds of dollars for several years.
An underage drinker may also deal with other criminal charges:
- Minor in possession
- Distributing alcohol to minors
- Child endangerment
- Soliciting alcohol
- Possessing a fake ID
- Vehicle or moving violations
Any additional charges may increase the fines and jail time.
Even though young adults and teens under 21 may be able to consume alcohol in certain circumstances, they should never get behind the wheel.