Minnesota’s Underage Drunk Driving Laws

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2017 | DUI, DWI, Underage DUI |

Consumption of alcohol by anyone under 21 is illegal in Minnesota, but that doesn’t stop many people from having a drink before they turn 21.  Because underage drinkers cause a disproportionate number of alcohol-related auto injuries, the standards are stricter and the penalties may be harsher for those under 21.

When it comes to underage drinking and driving, Minnesota has a strict policy. The state’s “Zero Tolerance Law,” or “Not a Drop Law,” means that any presence of alcohol, or other illegal substances, while operating or being in control of a motor vehicle is illegal for individuals under 21.

Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over .08 percent can result in the same penalties as an adult driver, but underage DWI offenders can face additional penalties that may be imposed under a broader scope of circumstances.

DWI Laws for Minnesota Drivers

According to Minnesota law, DWI violations require either evidence of impaired driving or an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, or the presence of certain illegal substances in the person’s body, during or within two hours of the time of driving, operating, or being in control of a motor vehicle, broadly defined.

Additional Laws for Drivers Under 21

Drivers under 21 are subject to additional DWI laws including the Underage Drinking Law and the aforementioned Zero Tolerance Law. The Underage Drinking Law prohibits those under 21 from consuming alcohol without parental supervision or permission, purchasing or attempting to purchase alcohol, possessing alcohol with the intent to consume, entering a bar or liquor store with the intent to buy, or misrepresenting your age to purchase alcohol.

It’s also important to know that drivers 16 and 17 years old who violate the DWI laws are under the jurisdiction of the adult court, not the juvenile court. This means these individuals are subject to the full range of adult penalties and consequences. In addition, individuals under 18 will lose their license and will not be able to apply again until after they turn 18 under “Vanessa’s Law.”

What is Vanessa’s Law?

Vanessa’s Law is named after 15-year-old Vanessa Weiss, who was a passenger with a 15-year-old unlicensed driver and was killed in an accident. Vanessa’s Law is meant to discourage teens from driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Minnesota has a Not a Drop Law for drivers under 21, which means there is no flexibility for these young individuals at all.

The law came into effect in 2004 and it states that anyone under the age of 18 and who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol must do the following:

  • Wait to obtain their license or permit until the age of 18
  • Pay up to $680 in fines before receiving their driver’s license
  • Pass a knowledge test before becoming a licensed driver
  • Complete a classroom driver education course
  • Hold their permit for at least 3 months before applying and testing for their license
  • Pay other penalties as deemed appropriate by the judge

Under 21 DUI Penalties Explained

Generally, the Zero Tolerance Law provides misdemeanor penalties and driver’s license suspension for any driver under the age of 21. But, there are other possible consequences to consider, such as:

  • Large fines
  • Community service requirements
  • Mandatory alcohol education classes
  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Vehicle confiscation (if there are prior offenses)
  • A DWI conviction will remain on your record and could come up in background checks for housing and employment
  • Raised or terminated insurance

Turning 21

For purposes of the Underage Drinking Law, a person does not attain the age of 21 until 8:00 a.m. on the day of the person’s 21st birthday. So, if you want to get the celebration started early, remember, you’re still considered underage until 8 a.m. on your actual birthday.

Been Caught Drunk-Driving?

The experienced Minnesota DWI defense lawyers at Meaney & Patrin can help you in this difficult time. No matter what degree of DWI or DUI you are charged with, a criminal defense attorney can develop a strategy for defense that will ultimately lead to the most favorable outcome possible for your individual case. Call us today at 612-688-2299 .



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