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Washington's underage DUI laws

Seattle drivers under the age of 21 may not be aware that they can be charged with drunk driving even if they have a blood alcohol content level below the standard legal limit. This is because Washington, like all other states, has a zero tolerance law in place for underage drinkers.

The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit in Washington for drivers over the age of 21 is .08. However, drivers under 21 can be charged with minor DUI if they have a BAC of just .02. The purpose of this law is to combat drunk driving crashes associated with underage drinking. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost one-third of all deaths of Americans between the ages of 15 and 20 are caused by car accidents. Of those deaths, approximately 35 percent involve alcohol. Furthermore, the alcohol involvement rate for drivers under the age of 21 is around twice that of drivers over legal drinking age.

In Washington, minor DUI is a misdemeanor, but underage drivers can be charged with adult DUI if they have a blood alcohol content level at or above .08. Like adult DUI, penalties for a minor DUI conviction could involve jail time, fines and the loss of driving privileges. A DUI conviction could also impact a defendant's future education and employment opportunities.

Those charged under Washington's zero tolerance DUI law may want to obtain legal representation. An attorney could evaluate the case and develop a strong defense based on the details surrounding the arrest. In some circumstances, it may be possible to get the charges dismissed. It may also be possible to get the charges significantly reduced.

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