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It doesn't take much to hit 0.02 BAC and spark a teen DWI

Underage drinking is illegal in Tennessee. So is underage drinking and driving. The reason there are laws on the books that specifically address these issues is because we all know that there are instances when violations happen. Police in Chattanooga and elsewhere across the state have a lot of incentive to bring charges and obtain convictions.

As an indicator of how serious the state takes the issue, note this. While adults are subject to being charged with driving while impaired if they have a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 percent, underage drinkers can find themselves charged if they have as little a BAC level as low as 0.02 percent. And a conviction can mean serious consequences.

There are the immediate repercussions, of course, such as the suspension of your driver's license for a year and a fine of $250. The courts could also impose a term of public service work.

Anyone who remembers their teen years or has a teenage son or daughter can appreciate that those punishments will likely be seen as life ending. But what can be even more serious is the effect that a drunk driving conviction can have in the long run. It could stunt a young person's education opportunities and career plans -- even before they've been formed.

And it doesn't take much to get to that 0.02 percent level. Experts agree that just one beer or glass of wine with a meal can elevate a teen's BAC to the zero-tolerance level. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration notes that even some cough medicines or breath sprays can lead to an over-the-limit reading.

A lot is at stake anytime a person is facing charges of driving under the influence. But the lower threshold for making a case when an underage driver is involved raises those stakes. To limit the effects to one's future, an experienced DUI defense attorney should be contacted right away.

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