Formal enactment of The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was on July 17, 1984. The new law forced states to comply or find their annual federal highway funding reduced by 10 percent at first before changes reduced that amount to eight percent in 2012.
Limitations to the new law
While the law was well known to be an attempt to stop drunk driving, what is not as well known is that the law only prohibited the purchase and public possession. Many states allowed for the consumption of alcohol for those under 21 without any criminal penalties. Certain circumstances exist in some areas of the country without underage drinking restrictions. Even religious occasions are exempt.
Regardless of their age, young people who get behind the wheel of a car after a few drinks can face life-changing consequences. While a first-time charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, or cannabis, or a combination of alcohol and/or intoxicating compounds is a misdemeanor, the conviction means a criminal record that will follow them throughout their entire lives, starting with applications for higher education:
- College pursuits – A vast majority of colleges mandate that applicants provide any and all information on arrests and convictions. Drunk driving sentences will get their attention. At best, the educational institution will require alcohol counseling. At worst, the application will be rejected.
- Scholarships – Working hard throughout high school to earn a scholarship could see those pursuits disappear with one DUI conviction.
- Student housing – Drunk driving can impact your ability to secure student housing. The discovery of one or more arrests and convictions could see that application thrown out.
Additional on-campus consequences
For those already enrolled and taking college classes, a drunk driving arrest can result in severe consequences ranging from mandatory counseling to suspension from a wide range of extra-curricular programs. The above penalties for applicants could also be imposed.
Drunk driving is more than a minor error in judgment. When it comes to places of higher learning with more stringent requirements, even a one-time mistake can lead to catastrophic consequences that can impact your professional future.