As with most other states in the Nation, Minnesota adopted the legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol content for drivers within the borders of the state of Minnesota. Knowing this, obviously, means that if one is driving and pulled over or gets into an accident with .08 percent blood alcohol content or more in the state of Minnesota; then prepare to be arrested and sanctioned.

However, many cases are not this cut and dry. For example, what happens if the person pulled over is 20 years old or even 17 years old? What if the underaged driver was under the legal limit?


Under the Legal Age to Drink Alcohol

As with most other states; in Minnesota the drinking age is 21 or over. So, in the case of a 20-year-old driver found to be intoxicated and driving; the consequences are much different than for a person over 21. Interestingly, although Minnesota has a “zero tolerance” policy (also known as the “not a drop” policy) for underage drinking and driving; the act of drinking and driving under the age of 21 does not in and of itself automatically mean the offender will get a DWI.

This means that if a 19 or 20-year-old is found to be driving with .07 B.A.C. or less; he or she will not get a DWI. An underaged DWI also cannot be a factor in any future DWI penalties (technically the 2nd DWI will be treated as the first). Still, the underaged offender will at the very least have their license suspended for 30 days and may face misdemeanor charges and up to a $1000 fine depending on their level of intoxication.

If the underaged driver is found to have a B.A.C. of .08 or more then they are subject to the same criminal and civil penalties as a driver who is 21 years of age or older.


A Minor Drinking and Driving

The laws for drinking and driving as a minor are similar to the laws for drinking and driving under age 21. A person who is 17 years old or younger will be prosecuted in juvenile Court. If the minor has a B.A.C. of .07 or lower then the minor will not be charged with a DWI.

HOWEVER, if the minor has a .08 BAC or higher then they will be prosecuted as an adult in a regular Court and all laws applying to an adult offender will apply.

A minor that is 15 years old or younger (unlicensed), will face additional sanctions in juvenile Court and be classified as a “major traffic offender”. The minor will face future restrictions on getting a permit and license.


The Drinking Charges Are Just the Tip Of the Iceberg

While, DWI charges, sanctions, fees and license suspensions are problematic enough; underaged offenders are particularly liable to other mandates. Alcohol and drug evaluations are almost always a given in these cases and can cost hundreds of dollars. More often than not, underaged offenders will be mandated to complete lengthy and expensive treatment.

Other possibilities are charges for unlawful consumption or possession of alcohol and even endangering the welfare of a child if the offender is proven to have furnished alcohol to minor friends.

These cases are complicated, expensive and lengthy. They are almost impossible to get through without the help of an experienced attorney.

These cases are also particularly important to handle with the utmost care because, simply put, the young person’s entire future could be compromised by a single mistake.

Source: (Minn. Stat. Ann. § § 169A.20, 169A.52-.54, 171.04, 171.05, 171.055, 260B.225 (2016).)