Virginia and Washington, DC are home to a large number of colleges and universities. There are ivy league schools. There are nationally ranked schools. There are private institutions. There are public colleges and universities. And for most of these schools, the students have left home for the first time. The sudden freedom can be exhilarating and confusing all at the same time. Students are trying to figure out the world and themselves, but they also want to fit in and release stress.
All these and more factors make drinking and doing drugs an activity that is not uncommon. Some students may be underage, and some students may get into a vehicle and attempt to drive after having a drink or two. These things can spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r for a student. It's not the potential for jail or fines that are the real kicker; it's the collateral consequences the student faces after he or she has paid back his or her so-called debt to society.
At S.L. England, PLLC, we represent students who have been charged with a DUI or related offenses or legal matters, like underage drinking and driving, driving under the influence of marijuana, and out-of-state licenses. The collateral consequences we try to prevent or help you navigate include things like student disciplinary proceedings, loss of driving privileges, potential loss of financial aid, loss of housing options on-campus, and overall consequences of a criminal record that -- if the crime is not expunged -- can follow you for a lifetime and impact the type of job you get after graduation.
Underage Drinking & DUIs & the Virginia/DC Metro Area
The laws in Virginia and Washington, D.C. vary to some extent with regard to underage drinking and driving. Below is just a summary of these laws.
Virginia Underage DUI
In Virginia, according to Va. Code §18.2-266.1, a person under the age of 21 can be convicted of an underage DUI if he or she operated a vehicle while his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) was higher than .02 but less than .08 percent. Unlike a DUI, an underage person can be convicted regardless if he or she was impaired so long as there is a detection of any amount of alcohol in the system or on the person.
An underage DUI offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 50 hours of community service and a minimum fine of $500. Other punishment is also possible.
D.C. Underage DUI
Washington, D.C. has no tolerance for underage persons and operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Any amount, meaning a BAC level over 0.0 percent, is enough reason to arrest an underage person for driving while intoxicated. A conviction means attending alcohol and drug classes or treatment, among other penalties.
Marijuana is legal in Virginia only medically, not recreationally. In D.C., however, it is legal medically and recreationally but with strict limitations for recreational use.
Marijuana has quickly become more socially accepted just as it is being legalized slowly state by state, election after election. As marijuana becomes more acceptable, its use may also become more acceptable among youth in higher education institutions. Even when legal, however, marijuana is still illegal for minors and driving while under its influence is always illegal. The consequences of a marijuana DUI conviction are similar to an arrest for underage DUI for alcohol.
Out-of-State Licenses & DUIs
Unique to university students is that many of them are residents of other states and, as such, their driver's license are also out-of-state. If you are arrested for an underage DUI, then it could be reported back to your state. Thanks to the Driver License Compact, an interstate compact, all states (but five) including Washington, D.C. share driving records and related information. Both Virginia and D.C. are party to this compact.
The criminal proceedings for the underage DUI charge will still occur in the D.C. or Virginia, wherever you were arrested.
Consequences of an Underage DUI in the DC/Virginia Metro Area for College Students
There are multiple consequences you can face, both in the short-term and long-term if you are arrested for driving with any detection of alcohol or drugs in your system.
If the incident occurred on campus, then you will most likely be disciplined through the school. Each school is different and penalties range depending on the policies of the respective school. You could face minimum punishment, like attending an alcohol class, or face serious consequences, like expulsion. If you are on a team or in a club, you could be suspended or no longer allowed to participate. Much of it depends on the facts, the circumstances, and the school.
You can also face criminal charges alongside school disciplinary proceedings.
Loss of Driving Privileges
There are two ways you can lose your driving privileges if you have been arrested for underage DUI in Virginia. The first is via the administrative process where your license is suspended for 7 days if your BAC was higher than .02 or if you refused to submit to a breathalyzer test (Va. Code §46.2-391.2(A)(i)). The number of days your license can be suspended increases with each arrest (a second offense results in a 60-day license suspension). You can lose your driving privileges, too, if you are convicted of the underage DUI charge. The administrative suspension occurs regardless of your criminal case. If convicted, you can lose your driver's license for one year, plus the DMV will add 6 demerit points to your driving record. These penalties could vary depending on if your license is out-of-state.
You can also lose your driving privileges if arrested for underage DUI in D.C., but the rules are different and the exact duration is less clear. Also, a judge in a criminal proceeding is unable to subject you to license suspension -- so a D.C. arrest will result only in administrative license suspension.
When drugs are involved with the arrest, you could be denied financial aid, especially federal loans or work-study opportunities. Other financial aid, awards, and grants may also be affected depending on the rules of each respective award.
Sometimes, through student disciplinary proceedings, you could lose the option to live on-campus. Again, much of this is dependent on each school and its rules and policies.
For many employers, they prefer employees without a criminal record. The latter can become a liability issue for employers and some industries simply do not allow persons to be employed if a DUI is on their record.
As a student, this may not affect you too greatly if you are working part-time to help support your way through school. But when you graduate and look for a career-type job, the impact of a criminal record will be felt. This is particularly true if your career is one where you will need a professional license or security clearance.
If arrested and later convicted, you are left with court-ordered penalties, collateral consequences, and a criminal record that compounds those collateral consequences. A criminal record is not erasable and expungement is not available to most offenders.
Retain an Experienced DUI Attorney in Virginia / DC Metro Area Today
Are you under the age of 21 and have you been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the D.C. metro area? If so, contact S.L. England today. He is experienced. He is insightful. He is passionate. And he cares about honest, comprehensive legal representation so that you get the best possible defense and best possible outcome.