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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Washington's zero-tolerance laws for minors and drunk driving

Minors may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana in Washington even when their blood alcohol concentrations are lower than the allowed limits for drivers who are at or over the age of 21. If they are convicted of the offense, they may face serious penalties.

Under the law, drivers who are under the age of 21 who have blood alcohol concentrations of 0.02 or above but less than 0.08 may be convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol. A conviction of the offense is a misdemeanor. Drivers who are under the age of 21 and who have blood alcohol concentrations of more than 0.00 of THC but less than 0.05 may be convicted of driving under the influence of THC, which is also a misdemeanor.

If the drivers are able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they consumed alcohol or marijuana after they had finished driving, they may assert it as an affirmative defense to the charges against them. They must notify the prosecution at least seven days before trial that they intend to assert the defense. The prosecution will then be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drivers drove after drinking or consuming THC instead of before they did.

Minors may be convicted of drunk driving even when they do not feel like they are impaired. Washington has a zero-tolerance policy for minors who drive after consuming even small amounts of alcohol or marijuana. People who are facing charges may want to get help from a criminal defense attorney who is experienced with defending against drunk and drugged driving allegations. An attorney might help the clients by identifying the defenses and asserting them.

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