June 14, 2017
Driving After Illegally Consuming Alcohol (“Baby DWI”)
Most everyone knows that the legal drinking age is 21 years old. Most people also know that you can be convicted of Driving While Intoxicated if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at least .08 percent while driving.
Most people do not know that, if you’re under 21 years old, and have a BAC of .02-.07 while driving, then you can be convicted of what some attorneys call a “baby DWI.” A “baby DWI” is the crime of Driving After Illegally Consuming Alcohol, and is codified in Virginia Code section 18.2-266.1. There is a common misconception by people charged with violating 18.2-266.1 that, because people refer to the offense as “baby,” that the charge is “not a big deal.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, a violation of 18.2-266.1 is a class 1 misdemeanor like regular DWIs, petit larcenies, assaults and batteries, etc. Therefore, violating 18.2-266.1 can lead to 12 months incarceration. Additionally, a conviction for violating 18.2-266.1 results in a driver’s license suspension of 1 year. If convicted of a first-offense DWI, the offender’s driver’s license is also suspended for 1 year.
If convicted of violating 18.2-266.1, the offender must choose between completing at least 50 hours of community service or paying a fine of at least $500.00. For a first-offense DWI, the law only requires at least a $250.00 fine. Therefore, the minimum fine is actually less for an actual first-offense DWI, than for a “baby DWI.”
People charged with violating 18.2-266.1 usually have a hard time understanding why they are charged with a “baby DWI” if their BAC was less than .08 percent. This is because a violation of 18.2-266.1 does not require intoxication. Look at the title of this article again. 18.2-266.1 is for driving after illegally (underage) consuming alcohol, not driving while intoxicated from alcohol.
Now, if an underage person has a BAC of .08 percent or more while driving, that person will likely be charged with a regular DWI. Again, a DWI conviction requires proof of intoxication, while a “baby DWI” does not.
Both DWI and a violation of 18.2-266.1 are very serious charges, and should be treated as such. Don’t downplay the severity of a “baby DWI” because “at least it’s not a regular DWI.”