It is illegal for individuals under 21 to consume alcohol in Minnesota.
Under state law, there’s a “zero-tolerance” drunk driving policy for those who are underage. That means any amount of alcohol consumed could result in a DWI charge, even for a very small amount.
Last July, a Faribault County 19-year-old male was cited with DWI – operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol; underage drinking and driving; and liquor consumption by a person under 21.
However, the teen was not convicted of any of the misdemeanor charges.
According to court records, the teen’s attorney was able to work out a plea deal with county prosecutors to dismiss two charges and have the DWI charge reduced.
“The agreement to amend charges was based on the strength of the evidence to support the necessary elements to convict for DWI,” says County Attorney Cameron Davis. “The charges were amended to careless driving based upon his driving under the influence.”
A citation issued by a deputy says the teen was driving when he was stopped at the intersection of Highway 169 and 150th Street at 1:26 a.m. on July 12. His blood-alcohol content level was determined to be .09.
Davis says the plea agreement was not based on any issues with procedure followed by the citing deputy during the traffic stop.
In the petition to enter a plea of guilty, the teen admits to driving carelessly because he was drinking.
“I was in control of my motor vehicle and had operated my vehicle after consuming alcohol carelessly on a highway in disregard of the safety and/or property rights of others,” says the signed petition.
The teen also agreed to increased jail time, supervision, license plate impoundment or vehicle forfeiture if he is convicted of future impaired driving offenses.
Notice of the teen’s misdemeanor careless driving conviction has been sent to the Department of Public Safety.
He must attend a MADD impact panel; be under supervised probation for one year; complete a chemical dependency assessment and follow recommendations; and pay a fine of $410. Jail time of 90 days was stayed for one year.
“Given the action taken by the Department of Public Safety as a result of his conduct, there is no practical difference between this conviction and a misdemeanor DWI conviction,” says Davis.