I'm Not Yet 21, And I Was Drinking and Driving. What Happens Next?

I’m Not Yet 21, And I Was Drinking and Driving. What Happens Next?

Driving under the influence (known as DWI in New Mexico) can have serious consequences for anyone. All states have a legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and if you’re pulled over and found to have a BAC over that limit, you are violating the law. The legal limit for drivers under the age of 21, though, is lower than for other drivers: even one drink could be enough to put you over the legal limit.

Why? If you are between the ages of 16 and 20 and have a BAC of 0.08–the legal limit for most drivers in New Mexico–you are 32 times more likely to die in a car crash than if you were sober. If you are under 21 and in a car crash, alcohol is almost twice as likely to be involved as if you were at least 21. Statistics like these are the reason why all states, including New Mexico, have strict DWI laws in place for younger drivers. Read more to find about the laws, and the penalties for breaking them, before you get behind the wheel.

What is the legal limit in New Mexico?

It is illegal for you to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher if you are over the age of 21. If you are under 21, though, you can be convicted of a DWI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02% or higher. Such laws are often referred to as “zero tolerance laws” because they are meant to discourage young drivers from getting behind the wheel after consuming any amount of alcohol. If you are arrested for DWI while you are underage, you could face the same administrative and criminal penalties as anyone else. In addition, an underage DWI charge could have unforeseen effects on your college career and your future job prospects.

What happens if you are underage and arrested for DWI?

When you are arrested on suspicion of DWI, the arresting officer administers a breath or blood test. If you are underage and your BAC is at or over 0.02%, or if you refuse to take the test, the officer will confiscate your license immediately and notify the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), which will then revoke your license for one year. License revocation is an administrative procedure, and it is automatic. You have 10 days to request an administrative hearing if you want to protest the revocation, but there is no guarantee that your license will be restored as a result.

New Mexico does not have separate DWI offenses for underage drivers, and anyone over the age of 18 is subject to the same penalties. upon criminal conviction. For a first offense, you will be required to complete 24 hours of community service, attend “DWI School,” and complete a drug or alcohol abuse screening program. It is also possible to be sentenced to jail time or receive a fine, among other penalties. Your driver’s license will be revoked for a year, and you will need to have an ignition interlock device installed on your car.

To get your license reinstated, you will have to successfully complete your license revocation period, and all court-ordered ignition interlock requirements must be met. You’ll also have to drive for at least six months with the interlock device in place on your car and the ignition interlock license that you are required to get. The ignition interlock device cannot show any signs of tampering, or any attempts to circumvent the device.

Can an underage DWI affect your future?

Aside from losing your license and criminal penalties, having an underage DWI conviction on your record can have serious negative consequences on your college experience and future job prospects. Here are some facts to consider:

  • A college or scholarship application might ask about criminal convictions. Your first DWI conviction is a misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense.
  • If you are already in college, your school might punish you for a DWI conviction. Depending on the college, punishment might mean anything from a formal warning to expulsion.
  • The revocation of your driver’s license will negatively impact your social life and your ability to work. Once you get it back, you can expect that your car insurance rates will be much higher than they were before your DWI conviction.
  • A DWI conviction could show up on a background check, forcing a potential employer to have second doubts about hiring you.

Legal representation

The consequences of underage DWI are too severe not to take seriously. You may be tempted to save money by representing yourself, or by using a public defender. However, this is not always the best approach. Public defenders are often working on several cases simultaneously; they are frequently overworked and may not invest themselves in your case the way a private attorney would. While hiring an experienced DWI attorney may cost you money in the short term, you should weigh that expense against the potential penalties that you face, both financial and otherwise.


Shaharazad McDowell Booth Law is available to assist you with your DWI charge. DWI does not have to ruin your life: schedule a consultation today.