Alcohol is the drug most commonly abused by teens nationwide. Underage drinking accounts for over 4,300 deaths a year and underage youth consume 11 percent of the alcohol sold in the US. Nationwide, underage drinking accounts for a disproportionate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. That’s why many states have instituted a zero-tolerance law with severe penalties for offenders.
In the state of Mississippi, teen drivers make up 10 percent of licensed drivers but account for 13 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Mississippi has enacted a zero-tolerance law. If a teen is pulled over and has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over .02 percent, he or she will be charged with a Mississippi underage DUI. There are NO reduced penalties for a Mississippi underage DUI.
A first-offense Mississippi underage DUI will have the exact same punishments as a regular DUI that a person of legal age receives if they have a BAC of .08 percent. These penalties include:
- Imprisonment of up to 2 days.
- Attending alcohol/substance abuse assessment.
- Fines from $250 to $1100.
- License suspension 30 to 90 days.
A teen offender is also subject to other charges, such as distributing alcohol to minors, minor in possession, and moving and vehicle maintenance violations. In many cases, the offender will be ordered into the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program (MASEP) and possibly be eligible for an expungement or DUI diversion. That may also mean an ignition interlock will be required on the vehicle driven by the underage DUI offender.
Parents should discuss alcohol abuse, drinking and driving, and the consequences of all of these things with their children. Also, parents make the best models for appropriate decisions with alcohol, including never driving under the influence. Opening the lines of communication can help discourage your teen from making costly mistakes that can change lives forever. And if they do make the choice to drink, let them know that they can call you for a no-questions-asked ride home so that they do not compound their mistake.