Sentencing And Dispositions Of Youth DUI And Other Alcohol Offenses: A Guide For Judges And Prosecutors NHTSA People Saving People Logo, www.nhtsa.dot.gov
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

II. THE FACTS

III. THE LAWS

IV. THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

V. DISPOSITIONS AND SENTENCES

VI. MONITORING AND ENFORCEMENT

VII. RECORDING, SHARING, AND USING INFORMATION PERTAINING TO ALCOHOL OFFENSES AMONG YOUTH

VIII. ADMINISTRATIVE AND COMMUNITY RESPONSES TO UNDERAGE DRINKING AND DUI: THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM

IX. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR POLICY AND RESEARCH

X. REFERENCES

XI. RESOURCES

I. Introduction


This Guide is intended to help judges and prosecutors to more effectively sanction juveniles and youths for alcohol-related offenses, work more cooperatively with administrative agencies and community organizations, and define a role for themselves outside the courtroom in preventing underage drinking and other alcohol-related offenses.


Judges and prosecutors face many challenges in their efforts to reduce underage drinking and other alcohol-related driving offenses. Only a small percentage of these offenses ever come before the court. Judges and prosecutors can effectively sanction those underage alcohol offenders that do come before the court and send a consistent message to those who do not by dealing with each case in a manner that will protect the public, hold offenders accountable to the victim and/or community, and provide education or treatment services for the offender. A good disposition will meet all three of these objectives concurrently.

Drinking and driving poses serious risks. To reduce impaired driving among youth, all States and the District of Columbia now have a minimum legal drinking age of 21 and zero tolerance laws. It is important that judges and prosecutors pay close attention to all alcohol-related offenses, including underage purchase, possession, and consumption of alcohol.

This guide contains the following topics: Chapter 2, The Facts, presents information on the prevalence of underage drinking and drinking and driving among youth, details risk factors for these behaviors, briefly considers some of the medical and social consequences of youth drinking, and explores underage access to alcohol. Chapter 3, The Laws, outlines the laws pertaining to underage drinking and impaired driving that judges and prosecutors uphold. Chapter 4, The Justice System, considers issues related to law enforcement, the apprehension of youth for underage alcohol offenses, and the processing of these youth in the court system. Chapter 5, Dispositions and Sentences, describes sanctions for youthful offenders that protect the public, hold the offender accountable to the victim and/or the community, and provide education or treatment services for the offender, as appropriate. Research into the effectiveness of sanctions is discussed whenever such research is available. Chapter 6, Monitoring and Enforcement, addresses the importance of monitoring compliance with sanctions imposed by the court and describes ways in which monitoring can be enhanced. Chapter 7 examines the issues surrounding the recording, sharing, and using of information pertaining to underage alcohol offenses and offenders. Chapter 8 describes administrative and community responses to underage drinking and DUI and the roles of prosecutors and judges in preventing and responding to underage alcohol offenses. This chapter also addresses the interrelationship between administrative and judicial sanctions for alcohol-related offenses and the necessary linkages between the court, the community, and State driver licensing agencies. Chapter 9 presents recommendations for policies and further research in order to increase the effectiveness of dispositions for alcohol-related offenses among youth.

Terms Used in this Guide

The Populations

  • Juvenile/Minor: a young person who has not yet reached the age at which he or she is treated as an adult for purposes of criminal law (Black et al. 1990). In the majority of States, this age is 18, although in ten it is 17, and in three it is 16 (DeFrances and Strom 1997).
  • Youth/Underage: all persons, including juveniles, who are younger than age 21.
  • Young adult: a person who is under age 21 but not considered a juvenile in his or her State (e.g., an 18- to 20-year-old).
  • Adult: a person age 21 or older.

The Offenses

  • Status offense: an act by a juvenile that would not constitute a crime if engaged in by an adult (e.g., purchasing, possessing, or consuming alcohol).
  • Delinquent offense: an act by a juvenile that would constitute a crime if committed by an adult (e.g., driving under the influence of alcohol).

Key Laws

  • Minimum legal drinking age (MLDA): State laws that make it illegal for any person who is younger than 21 either (1) to purchase, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages or (2) to misrepresent their age to obtain such beverages.
  • Zero tolerance: laws prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle by anyone under the age of 21 with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) equal to or greater than 0.02, in most States. BAC is usually defined as either grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws: laws that make it a criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle while impaired or intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs. These laws do not require a measurement of alcoholic content. Rather, the offense is committed when there is evidence that the driver's behavior is caused by the influence or impairment of alcohol or other drugs.