A very small quantity of alcohol will place a minor driver at risk for an arrest and the filing of criminal charges of a "Minor DUI" prosecution. In Washington State, it is a crime if a person under the age of 21 has consumed enough alcohol to be over .02. Informally these are called minor DUIs, they are technically charged under the law entitled RCW 46.61.503—Driver under twenty-one—consuming alcohol.
Over 0.02, but under 0.08
If you are convicted of a minor dui, the maximum penalty for this offense is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine making this a misdemeanor. Upon conviction you may be placed on probation for up to two years and will likely be required to obtain an alcohol assessment, follow any treatment recommended, attend a DUI victim's panel, and likely be ordered to serve jail time, perform community service, or serve an electronic home monitoring sentence, and during the period of probation be ordered to submit to random urine and breath tests.
In the event that you are under age and your breath or blood test is over a .08 concentration you will likely be prosecuted as an adult and subject to the mandatory minimum penalties that adults face. In many courts around the state, and particularly in Whatcom County, the prosecution will usually add the separate charge of Minor In Possession by consumption if you are arrested for a Minor DUI. While this seems less serious, it is a crime that has potentially more serious criminal consequences than a Minor DUI.
Department of Licensing Penalties
The DoL will also punish a minor for a DUI arrest separate from the criminal consequences above. The DoL will seek to impose an automatic 90-day license suspension, regardless of the outcome of the criminal case, and this license suspension is separate and distinct from any of the criminal penalties. There will be an automatic license suspension 60 days from the date of the arrest unless the arrested minor requests a hearing before the Department of Licensing to contest the pending license suspension just like a regular/adult DUI. The request must be postmarked within 20 days from the date of the arrest and an arrested minor should follow the exact same instructions for a regular DUI. An experienced and dedicated DUI lawyer is necessary to give you the very best chance of winning the hearing and avoiding the mandatory license suspension.
Despite the best efforts of your attorney, the decision to suspend is up to the DoL and if they choose to suspend your license, it will be for at least 90 days for a first offense. For a second minor DUI arrest, the suspension will be for at least 2 years of until the minor is 21 years old, whichever is longer! As a consequence of a DoL suspension you will have to obtain high-risk insurance (SR-22 insurance) for three years following the suspension period. The cost of insurance for a minor is expensive enough without a DUI arrest, but with the added requirement of SR-22, the cost may prove to be a financial prohibition to driving.
Although apparently less serious than a regular DUI, a minor DUI has very similar, if not identical, consequences as an adult DUI conviction. Do not let the apparently "less" serious title of "minor" to mislead you into thinking that this is a trivial charge. It requires a knowledgeable DUI lawyer who is committed to the protection of your rights and license.