Permitting an Unauthorized Minor to Drive

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What does it mean to let an unauthorized minor drive?

The Legal Definition

A.R.S. 28-3474 provides that:

A person who knowingly causes or permits the person’s child or ward or any person under eighteen years of age to drive a motor vehicle on a highway if the person is not authorized under this chapter or in violation of this chapter is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.

Some Examples Of Letting An Unauthorized Minor Drive

If you let someone who is under 18 years old and who is not properly licensed drive your car, you could be charged with a crime. We see a few different situations that result in this charge.

An Unlicensed Minor Borrowing Someone's Car

The owner of a car lets an unlicensed minor drive the car. The car owner rides along as a passenger. Then the minor commits some moving violation like speeding and gets pulled over. The minor gets ticketed with a bunch of charges. This will include whatever violation was the basis for the traffic stop, as well as driving without a valid license. The  owner of the car will get a criminal ticket for letting the unlicensed minor drive.

Minor With An Instruction Permit

Another possibility involves two minors. Minor A owns the car and is licensed. Minor B has an instruction permit, a.k.a. a learners permit. A learners permit requires that Minor B be accompanied by a person who is fully licensed and who is 21 years of age or older. Both minors go out in the car with Minor B driving. Then Minor B commits a moving violation and gets pulled over. The police officer commences the ticket writing and Minor A gets a criminal ticket for letting Minor B drive.

Solo Minor, either unlicensed or with an instruction permit

Similar to the first two examples, this situation involves a minor borrowing someone else’s car. The minor either has no license, or has an instruction permit that requires a licensed driver over 21 years of age to be a passenger. The minor takes the car out and gets pulled over for some moving violation. Once the police officer figures out that the car does not belong to the minor, the police officer is going to find the owner and cite them for letting an unauthorized minor drive. A possible defense here would be that the minor took the car without permission.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the penalties for a conviction for letting an unauthorized minor drive?

Possible Consequences:

    • Class 2 misdemeanor conviction.
    • Fines up to $750 plus surcharges and court assessments that could nearly double the total fine
    • Up to 4 months in jail.
    • Up to 2 years probation

Likely Consequences:

    • Class 2 misdemeanor conviction.
    • A few days of jail are possible depending on the circumstances.
    • Fines in the $300-$600 range
    • This is not a moving violation, so there are no points associated with this violation.

There can also be collateral consequences:

How do you fight an ticket for letting an unauthorized minor drive?

There are two components to this charge that the state must prove at a trial:

    1. That the owner of the car knew the unauthorized minor was driving the car, and
    2. That the minor was indeed not legally authorized to drive the car.

The first part goes to the defendant’s state of mind. Did the defendant know that the minor was both unauthorized and driving the car. So a good defense would be that the minor drove the vehicle without the permission or knowledge of the defendant. Another possible defense would be that the defendant believed the minor was in fact authorized – properly licensed – to drive the car.

The second component of this charge is more clerical or administrative – a paperwork violation like an insurance violation or driving on a suspended license. Either the minor was properly licensed or they weren’t. If they were properly licensed, then that’s a fantastic defense. If the minor was not properly licensed, then you are left with arguing the knowledge component as a defense.

What can you do to improve the chances of a positive outcome in your case?

When we represent a client with this charge, we first want to make sure that the unlicensed minor gets a proper license. The defendant may not have much control over that, but we believe that correcting the underlying issue helps the negotiation process.

Beyond that, we work to leverage the defendant’s good background and try to negotiate an improved outcome that ideally avoids the criminal conviction.

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