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What Constitutes the Offense of Underage Drinking and Driving?

Underage drinking and driving in Minnesota is defined by Statute § 169A.33 subd. 2, which states it is a crime for a person under the age of 21 to be in operation or physical control of a motor vehicle during or after the consumption of alcoholic beverages. It is a misdemeanor offense for anyone under 21 to have any amount of alcohol in their system and operate a motor vehicle. However, there must be physical evidence within the person’s body that they consumed alcohol.

In an underage drinking and driving case, if a blood, urine or breath test reveals any amount of alcohol, (even a trace amount) in the under 21 driver’s system, the individual will be charged with the misdemeanor offense. . If you are charged or if you are the parent of a child that has been charged with underage drinking and driving, you need to consult with your MN DWI lawyer as soon as possible so that the charges can be properly addressed and defended in court.

Vanessa’s Law

In 2004, Vanessa Weiss was killed in a vehicle with a 15-year-old unlicensed driver. It did not take long before Vanessa’s Law was created and put into effect in Minnesota. The law applies to drivers under the age of 18 who have been drinking or taking drugs,  and are convicted of underage drinking and driving.  The underage driver will be subjected to the following penalties:

  • Cannot obtain a driver’s license until the age of 18
  • $680 in fines must be paid before acquiring a license
  • A license cannot be obtained until a knowledge test is passed
  • Successful completion of a classroom driver education course
  • Hold a driver’s permit for at least 3 months before taking the driver’s license exam
  • The judge can impose other penalties as he or she sees fit

The purpose of this law is to discourage teen drivers from driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs.


Minnesota Statute § 169A.33 subd. 4 outlines the penalties that a person under 21 may pay for the offense. These penalties include suspending the individual’s driver’s license for up to 30 days or 180 days if there has been a previous underage drinking offense.

The overall penalties for underage drinking and driving can be the same as those imposed on adult offenders. The main difference is the fact that minors cannot be sent to adult jail or prison. However, someone as young as 16 can be tried as an adult, but they cannot serve their time in an adult correctional facility. They can, however, be required to complete community service, probation, time in a juvenile facility, substance abuse classes, and more. These cases can be one or the penalties can be reduced with the help of a qualified Minnesota DWI lawyer.

Contact Minnesota DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms:

If you are under the age of 21 or you are the parent of a child under the age of 21 who has been charged with underage drinking and driving you should access the legal assistance you need to protect your future or the future of your child. To learn more about your rights and defense options, call MN DWI and DUI Lawyer F.T. Sessoms at 612-344-1505 today.