Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

The Consequences of Underage Drinking

Most parents hand over the car keys to their sixteen year old son or daughter with love, pride, and a little anxiety. Every parent wants their child to be a responsible driver and respect the rules of the road like a mature person. Unfortunately, that may not be the case for all teenagers reaching the legal driving age to operate an automobile. Many young drivers find themselves involved in accidents and driving offenses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 2,163 teenagers in 2013 were killed and nearly 243,250 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to motor vehicle crashes. Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers and nearly a quarter of those accidents involve an underage drinking driver.

Underage Drinking and the Law

All states prohibit individuals from driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08%. It is considered a crime. The rules are usually more severe for people under 21 years old. In most states, any motorists under the age of 21 operating an automobile with a BAC level of .02% or higher can be cited for a DUI (Driving under the influence of alcohol). Some states are stricter with a zero-tolerance for underage drinkers. A BAC over 0% will automatically become a DUI. In the state of Massachusetts the legal drinking age is 21.

In Massachusetts, drivers under 21 account for less that 10% of all drivers, however research reveals these young drivers account for 12% of DUI related deaths in the commonwealth. As a result, the standards and penalties for underage drinkers in Massachusetts may be more severe. In addition to driving under the influence, an underage drinker may be charged with moving and vehicle violations, distributing alcohol to other minors, soliciting alcohol, and possessing a fake ID.

The Warning Signs of Underage Drinking

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, parents should look for any warning sign that may reveal underage drinking. The organization cites the following as signs to look for in your child's behavior.

  • Alcohol is missing from bottles or cans in your home

  • Breath mints or mouthwash—these may be an attempt to mask the odor of alcohol

  • More sluggish and passive than usual; does not care as much about former interests or appearance

  • Is unusually aggressive or rebellious

  • Hangs around with different friends and is more secretive than usual

  • Skipping school

  • Grades are dropping

  • Borrowing money more

  • Alcohol hidden in your teen’s backpack, car, or room

  • Drunk and intoxicated behavior: your teen stumbles or moves awkwardly, has slurred speech and a dull, unfocused look or bloodshot eyes

Legal Help and Action

If your underage son or daughter is facing OUI/DUI charges, the consequences may be serious and life-changing. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Edward Molari can provide you and your family with legal advice that can help your teenager regain their life and driving record. He can explain your rights and provide personalized legal services in your OUI/DUI case.  Contact Attorney, Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.