It’s probably a safe bet that this prom and graduation season will play out like it does every year – masses of high school seniors gleefully attending parties and afterparties, getting “turned-up” like there’s no tomorrow.
Unfortunately statistics lean point to a good number of Minnesota teens being seemingly more excited about the alcohol-infused celebrations and after-parties than they are about getting their diplomas.
Alcohol and other substances have long been a main attraction during prom and graduation season, and regrettably, it often leads to driving while intoxicated.
The fact of the matter is the dangers associated with underage drunk driving are real, Minnesota DWI laws are tough, and the penalties can be harsh and longer-lasting than your teen may think.
The Dangers of Teenage Drunk Driving in Minnesota Are Real
Nothing mutes the joy of graduating or going to prom faster than a young life being lost in a drunk driving accident.
What these young people don’t realize is how easily things can turn from bliss to grief when they drink and drive. Consequently, massive public safety campaigns are underway throughout Minnesota to raise awareness among teenagers about the dangers of driving while drunk during this prom and graduation season.
Programs allow students to witness simulated motor vehicle crashes, view graphic images, and hear real-life stories about what happens when they make the poor decision of driving drunk.
These statewide efforts are intended to scare teens straight before they get themselves into trouble they can’t get out of, but it doesn’t always work. Because of this, it is important that you – and they – understand the legal consequences if they are charged.
DWI Laws in Minnesota
While local law enforcement in Minnesota makes every effort to work with the juvenile court system in redirecting misguided teens and bad decision-making when it comes to underage DWI, the fact remains: Minnesota adheres to a strict “zero-tolerance” policy.
Anyone below 21 years of age found to have consumed alcohol – no matter how little – could be charged and possibly convicted for driving while impaired (DWI).
You might assume that the police won’t know if a teenager drinks just a little alcohol, but you’d be wrong.
Minnesota has an “implied consent” law which gives police officers the mandate to administer a blood, urine, or breath test to anyone they suspect is operating a motor vehicle drunk. Refusal of these chemical tests may result in the cancellation of one’s driving privileges for up to one year.
Minnesota Penalties for Underage DWI
The are four degrees of DWI (driving while impaired) convictions in Minnesota, and the severity of charges increases from fourth degree DWI (a misdemeanor) to first degree DWI (a felony). The specific nature of the charge is determined by such factors as the number of violations, chemical test refusal, and other aggravating factors. Sentencing ultimately depends on the degree of the DWI charge.
A fourth-degree conviction may be punishable by $1,000 in fines and/or imprisonment in jail for up to 90 days.
A first degree DWI conviction, on the other hand, may garner $14,000 fines and/or imprisonment for seven years.
Of course, the outcome of a DWI case will be exponentially worse if the drunk teenager causes an accident, destroys property, or injures or causes another person’s death.
Talking with your teen ahead of time about the risks can go a long way in preventing your near-graduate from getting a DWI this season.
However, if it doesn’t and you wind up needing legal advice, a Minnesota DWI attorney experienced in juvenile law can provide the guidance you and your teen will need.
Fighting back may mean the difference between your teen going on to college, finding that dream job, and living life the way it was meant… or suffering long-term legal, financial, and social ramifications from a single night of celebration.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).