The Commercial-News reports that the Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention statistics show that almost 700,000 underage youth in Illinois drink each year, accounting for approximately 13 percent of all alcohol sold in the state. The article continues that while drivers under the age of 21 make up only 10 percent of the licensed drivers in the state, they are involved in 17 percent of the fatal crashes involving alcohol, according to Illinois State Police.
Rather than face a reduction in federal funding for highways, all states raised their drinking age to 21 after the passage of the National Drinking Age Act of 1984. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more 18 year olds die in low blood-alcohol content (between .01 and .09 BAC) crashes than any other age and these numbers were even higher in years when many states had lower drinking ages. The association states that the traffic safety benefit of age 21 drinking laws has been examined extensively and is well established.
Penalties for Underage Drinking and Driving
The penalties for DUI conviction differ for adult and underage offenders. According to the 2010 Illinois DUI Fact Book, the penalties may vary as follows:
- Loss of license for first-time offenders: Underage drivers convicted of DUI will have their licenses revoked for a minimum of two years and are not eligible for a restricted driving permit until the second year of revocation. The minimum term of revocation for an adult offender is one year.
- Loss of license for repeat offenders: A second offense results in loss of license for five years or until the driver reaches the age of 21, whichever is longer; adult driving privileges will be revoked for five years upon a second DUI conviction within 20 years. A third DUI conviction for an underage driver is a Class 4 felony and results in a minimum 10-year revocation, with additional DUI convictions ending in lifetime revocation. Third and fourth offenses are classified under Aggravated DUI for adult offenders and carry the same terms of revocation.
- Fines: First-time offenders convicted of DUI may be fined up to $2,500, except that offenders may face additional fines up to $25,000 if there are aggravating circumstances.
- Jail time: Conviction for a first DUI carries a potential sentence up to one year; in the event there are aggravating circumstances, this may extend to a sentence up to 12 years.
- Program participation: Under 21 DUI offenders may be ordered to participate in the Youthful Intoxicated Driver's Visitation Program, or other educational or remedial courses. Adults convicted of DUI may also be required to undergo counseling, evaluations or programs.
Additionally, it is important to note that a DUI conviction remains on the offender's permanent driving record. The driver's vehicle may be impounded or seized, or a breath alcohol ignition interlock device may be installed in the vehicle as a condition of driving release.
Use It & Lose It
Secretary of State Jesse White's administration has initiated special programs and laws to address underage drinking and driving, such as the Use It & Lose It zero-tolerance law, which applies to any driver under the age of 21 with any trace of alcohol in his or her system or who refuses to submit to chemical testing.
Underage drivers will have their driving privileges suspended for three months for a BAC of more than .00, or for six moths for a refusal to complete testing. A second offense will result in suspension for one year for a BAC in excess of .00 or for two years for a failure to submit to testing.
According to the 2010 Illinois DUI Fact Book, DUI arrests for drivers under 21 decreased from 1986 to 2008. Still, in 2008, 2,187 underage drivers were suspended for driving with a BAC over .00 or refusal to submit to testing. An additional 4,003 underage drivers were arrested for DUI and received suspensions.
Purchase and Possession
The purchase, possession, receipt or consumption of alcohol by anyone under 21, in violation of the Liquor Control Act, will result in the suspension of his or her driving privileges for six months, or for 12 months upon a second conviction. A minor who receives court supervision for violating the act will have his or her driving privileges suspended for three months.
Drivers who have been charged with underage DUI face serious criminal penalties as well as increased insurance costs and time away from work or school upon conviction. Parents or the minors themselves should contact a lawyer to protect their interests and their driving record.