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Missouri residents know that teenagers and alcohol can be a dangerous combination. Not only is underage drinking illegal, it can cause deadly accidents and other health issues. The problem is made worse by the fact that young people often don't realize the consequences their actions can have on their lives and the lives of others.

Underage drinking is a widespread issue. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 35.1 percent of 15-year-olds admit they have had at least one drink in their lifetime. Approximately 22.7 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 20 said they have consumed alcohol within the past month. NSDUH also reports that 5.4 million people ages 12 to 20 engaged in binge drinking in 2013.

Drinking can cause young people to make poor decisions, which can lead to assaults, accidents and other risky behaviors. More than 4,000 people under the age of 21 die as the result of alcohol-related car crashes, alcohol poisoning, suicides, homicides and accidents like falling and drowning each year. In 2008, more than 190,000 young people were treated in an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries.

Parents and other adults should be aware of warning signs that may signal underage drinking. These signs include a drop in academic performance, behavioral problems at school, lack of interest in appearance or activities, a change in social groups, smelling like alcohol and trouble with memory or concentration.

Missouri residents charged with underage drinking and driving may benefit by consulting with a criminal defense attorney. It may be possible to get the charges dismissed or to negotiate with prosecutors for a plea deal that dismisses the most serious charges in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser offense.

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