With Graduation festivities forthcoming, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the underage drinking Laws in Washington State.


What is a Minor DUI?

Washington State has a zero-tolerance law for minors driving under the influence. Under the Washington State statute RCW 46.61.503, if you are under the age of 21 and either driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle with a breath or blood alcohol content of .02 or greater within 2 hours of the time of the incident, you can be arrested for Minor DUI. If a person under 21 provides an evidentiary breath or blood alcohol sample equal or greater to .08, they may be charged with an adult DUI (RCW46.61.502).

Zero-tolerance also applies for marijuana. Just because recreational marijuana has been legalized, it is not legal for drivers under the age of 21 to have THC in their system. Drivers under 21 can be charged for a Minor DUI with a THC concentration of anything above 0.00, as evidenced by blood sample analysis (RCW 46.61.506.)

What are the penalties of a Minor DUI conviction?

A Minor DUI is a misdemeanor charge. A conviction can greatly impact the future of the underage driver. The maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Unlike an adult DUI, which is a gross misdemeanor charge, there is no mandatory jail time or fines or ignition interlock device requirement. Penalties are at the discretion of the judge, up to the maximum. Commonly, the judge will order community service, work crew, fines, or alcohol classes as alternatives to jail time.

A Minor DUI arrest triggers a mandatory license suspension of at least 90 days by the Department of Licensing. The license suspension is based on the arrest, not a conviction. This suspension can be contested by filing a request for a hearing with the Department of Licensing within 20 days of the arrest.


What is Minor in Possession?

Minor in possession / Minor in consumption of alcohol (MIP/MIC) is a common offense. The potential criminal consequences and effects on driving privileges can be very detrimental.

According to Washington State statute RCW 66.44.270:

  • It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control
  • It is unlawful for any person under the age of twenty-one years to possess, consume, or otherwise acquire any liquor.
  • It is unlawful for a person under the age of twenty-one years to be in a public place, or to be in a motor vehicle in a public place, while exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor.
  • There are several sections of the statute that describe circumstances where the law does not apply. See RCW 66.44.270 for details.
  • Conviction or forfeiture of bail for a violation of this section by a person under the age of twenty-one years at the time of such conviction or forfeiture shall not be a disqualification of that person to acquire a license to sell or dispense any liquor after that person has attained the age of twenty-one years.

Washington State Department of Licensing defines Minor in Possession (MIP) in the following ways:

  • when a person age 13-17 signs a diversion agreement or is convicted of possession of alcohol
  • when a person age 13-20 signs a diversion agreement or is convicted of a drug offense
  • when a person age 13-17 is convicted of any offense involving a firearm, whether or not it’s related to using a motor vehicle
  • when a person under 18 pleads guilty or is found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm while in a vehicle
  • when a person under age 18 commits any offense while armed with a firearm in which a motor vehicle served an integral function

What are the penalties of a Minor in Possession conviction?

Strangely, the penalties are harsher for the underage drinking convictions MIP/MIC than for Minor DUI. Penalties are more severe for teenagers drinking in a park than driving under the influence with a BAC level of .02 to .079.

A Minor in Possession charge in Washington State is a gross misdemeanor. A conviction can carry penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and a maximum of 364 days in jail.

In terms of license revocation with MIP convictions, it varies depending on whether alcohol or drugs were involved. If under 18 and convicted of an alcohol-related MIP or a drug-related MIP, your license will be revoked for 1-year for your first conviction and 2-years if you have a second conviction.

Legal Representation

High quality, thorough legal representation is essential for individuals facing a Minor DUI or a MIP conviction. Consequences can be great. Minor DUI and drug crimes can have serious impact on the future of a young person. Consider that the following can be negatively impacted with minor drug and alcohol convictions:

  • College Admissions
  • Eligibility for Federal Student Loans
  • School or College suspensions
  • Suspension or Revocation of Driver’s License
  • Future employment opportunities
  • Ability to Enlist in Military
  • Ability to travel to Canada or other countries

These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.