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What Happens to Minors Who Drink and Drive in Tennessee?

Posted on in DUI/DWI

Campbell County criminal defense attorney DUI

The legal drinking age across the country is 21 years old. Anyone younger than that who drives while impaired by alcohol will face serious consequences. Minors who drive drunk risk losing their driving privileges if caught, but they also put those around them at risk of serious injury or death. Tennessee takes underage drinking and driving seriously, and because of the potential risks, a child who drinks may not be the only one facing criminal punishment. Whoever provided the minor with alcohol or drugs may also face misdemeanor or even felony charges.

Consequences of Driving Drunk as a Minor

Tennessee has three main laws that attempt to control the number of minors who drink illegally. In instances when a minor is caught drinking or attempting to purchase alcohol, he or she can still be charged under these laws, even if he or she is not driving. Tennessee’s Driving While Impaired law applies to minors aged 16-20 who have not yet hit the age of legal alcohol consumption. If caught driving drunk, a minor will have his or her license revoked and pay a fine of up to $250. The court may also require the minor to complete community service hours.

Both the Drug Free Youth Act and the Underaged Possession of Alcohol laws have the same punishments, as follows:

  • First offenders may have their license suspended for one year or until they turn 17 years old, whichever is the longer period of time. The offender also has the right to request an early withdrawal of suspension after a period of 90 days.

  • Second offenders may have their license suspended for two years or until they turn 18 years old. They have the right to request an early withdrawal after a period of one year.

First-time offenders have the right to apply for a restricted license if they can prove hardship from not having a license to get to school and/or work. Second offenders will not be granted a restricted license until they have served one year of their suspension.

Minors can face additional serious charges if they are involved in an accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There can be more severe consequences if they cause bodily harm or death to a victim in a car crash.

Who Else Can Be Punished if a Minor Drinks?

Tennessee may also punish the person who sells or allows a minor to possess and consume alcohol. In these cases, offenders may include the child’s parents or a worker at a convenience store who does not ask for proper identification before selling alcohol.

Most cases of selling alcohol to minors are considered misdemeanors, but in cases that involve a DUI crash, charges can be elevated to felony offenses. Penalties for this crime include:

  • Prison terms that can range from a few days to years

  • Heavy fines on top of court fees

  • Probation, which could include completing community service hours

  • Businesses could have their liquor license suspended or revoked

Parents who give their children drugs or alcohol may have to answer to the Department of Child and Family Services and be monitored until the safety of the child can be determined.

Contact a Jacksboro, TN DUI Defense Attorney

Children who do not have proper adult guidance will often try alcohol before they are allowed to legally do so. Depending on the circumstances, they may lose their driving privileges and face other consequences that could change the course of their future. The skilled attorneys from the Law Offices of William F. Evans can help protect a minor from serious punishment and guide him or her through the driver’s license reinstatement process as quickly as possible. To schedule a no-cost consultation with a dedicated Campbell County criminal defense lawyer, call our office today at 423-449-7980.




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