At Chudnovsky Law, we know that an underage DUI in California can carry serious consequences. If a young driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is below .08 percent, they may not face criminal charges, but the administrative implications and costs can still follow them for years to come. Drivers under the age of 21 can also face traditional DUI charges that carry the possibility of jail time, fines, and a criminal record. You do not have to face these serious penalties on your own.
The experienced Orange County underage DUI defense lawyers at Chudnovsky law are here to help. Our attorneys have years of experience handling more than 8,500 criminal matters, including all DUI cases. We know how to handle the unique legal issues when a DUI suspect is under 21. Contact us now.
Never wait to get a DUI defense attorney on your side for you or your underage child. You have important constitutional protections that begin as soon as an officer investigates you for DUI. The sooner you hire an experienced DUI attorney, the sooner you will have someone on your side enforcing your rights.
Hire a DUI lawyer right away to protect your administrative rights through the DMV. You may have the right to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license, but you must formally request a hearing within ten days of the suspension. You need to hire a DUI lawyer right away to ensure they have time to investigate your case and request the hearing within this short deadline.
Learn more about the many reasons you should hire an Orange County DUI lawyer to protect your legal rights at all stages of the DUI case process.
Our Experienced DUI Lawyers Know How to Successfully Use Legal Defenses to Beat DUI Charges
When a driver faces charges of DUI, the police and prosecutor work hard to make it seem as if a conviction is inevitable. This is not always the case. Remember, these people are not on your side, so they will not tell you about any weaknesses in their case. A lawyer can use many possible defenses to beat DUI charges.
Some of the most common include:
- The officer did not have a valid legal reason to pull you over.
- The officer did not have a warrant to test your blood or breath.
- The breath test device used in the field was not accurate.
- The officer did not accurately administer field sobriety tests.
- Lab results were not accurate.
- The police did not establish a chain of custody to prove that your samples were in their control at all times.
- It is not clear who was driving the car (if, for example, the car was stopped and all occupants were outside the vehicle).
- Lengthy delays in field testing caused inaccurate results.
- The police forced the driver to make incriminating statements without reading the Miranda Rights.
- The officer failed to meet the observation period of twenty minutes (to ensure that nothing ingested or regurgitated affected the test results).
These are just a few of the many potential defenses that skilled lawyers can use to beat DUI charges. Unless you consult with a defense lawyer on your side, you will not know how strong the state’s case against you is.
License Suspension If You Refuse To Take a Breath Test
California has an implied consent law that requires all drivers to consent to alcohol testing as a condition of driving on public roads. (Many states enact this law as a condition of receiving federal highway funds.) An officer can ask a stopped driver to take a blood, breath, or urine test to establish the amount of alcohol in their body. If the driver refuses to take this test, they can lose their license for one year.
Despite this harsh rule, there are still defenses you can use to protect your driving privileges. The officer must have had a lawful reason to pull you over. The officer must also have some reason to believe that you were impaired before requesting the test.
Finally, if you refuse, the officer must make you aware of the consequences of refusing the test (losing your license for an entire year). If the police do not meet these conditions, you have the right to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license through the DMV. There is only a very short period to do so.
You Only Have Ten Days to Request a DMV Hearing That Can Save Your Driving Privileges
When you have a driver’s license suspension as an administrative matter, the officer will serve you notice of the suspension. You only have ten days from when you receive this notice to request a hearing at the DMV. If you fail to request a hearing within this time, you will lose the right to appeal the officer’s actions, and they can take your license. Always consult with a DUI defense lawyer as soon as you receive notice of any action against your driver’s license, if not before.
Your lawyer will need time to investigate your case and file the formal hearing request with the DMV. You always never want an improper suspension to stay on your record. If it does, a second refusal can lead to a license suspension for two full years, and you might not be eligible for a restricted permit to drive to work during that time. You can also be subject to mandatory jail time on any underlying DUI charges related to the refusal.
California Has a “Zero Tolerance” Policy for Underage DUIs
Like many states, California has enacted a Zero Tolerance Law for underage DUI. The law prohibits any person under 21 from operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or higher. While some states make this a crime, California considers underage drinking a civil offense.
The underage driver does not face jail time for having low levels of alcohol in their system - only the suspension of their driver's license and fines. California has harsher civil penalties for underage DUI when the driver's blood-alcohol level is 0.05 percent or higher. Section 23140 does not make this offense a crime, so the driver still cannot receive a jail sentence.
They can, however, face:
- A one-year suspension of their driving privileges (for a first offense)
- A fine of $100 (for a first offense), and
- A mandatory alcohol education program of three months or longer (if the driver is over 18)
You Can Still Face Regular DUI Charges
While some underage DUI offenses are only civil matters, a driver under 21 can still face regular DUI charges when their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher. Regular DUI is a criminal offense. Drivers face fines, jail time, and the suspension of their driver’s license.
A regular DUI can also count as a prior for enhanced sentencing on any future DUI cases. Any defendant facing DUI charges must hire an Orange County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Our Orange County Underage DUI Defense Lawyers Know The Local DUI Courts
The experienced DUI lawyers at Chudnovsky Law have handled DUI cases in courts throughout Orange County. We know how to work with judges and prosecutors to negotiate a fair resolution to underage DUI charges. We also know how to litigate when necessary to take your case to a jury. Our defense attorneys have experience trying cases and selecting juries in courts throughout Orange County.
Our attorneys are also familiar with the Orange County Superior Court’s special DUI Court program. Judges and prosecutors in this court work with DUI cases specifically and even receive special training on the issues specific to DUI. This makes a difference. Our defense lawyers are working with other legal professionals who want to work together to reduce future DUI cases - not simply punish every defendant as harshly as possible.
The Orange County DUI Court has received recognition as an Academy Court. Other court systems use it as a model to develop their own DUI court programs. While this does not guarantee that every defendant receives fair treatment throughout the criminal case process, it gives our defense lawyers better options for working with trained DUII professionals to negotiate a fair resolution for every client.
FAQs About Underage DUIs
Do I have to be impaired by alcohol to receive an underage DUI charge?
No! California’s Zero Tolerance statute specifically sets a blood alcohol concentration - not a standard of impairment. It does not matter whether an underage driver was impaired or not. So long as the detectable amount of alcohol in their blood is above .01 percent, they can face a civil offense for underage DUI.
Can an underage DUI be a prior in future DUI cases?
It depends on the specific offense the prosecutor files against the underage driver. Civil offenses will not count as priors because they do not meet the same requirements as a criminal DUI offense.
However, underage drivers can still be charged with DUI when their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or higher. This criminal offense can be alleged as a “prior” in future DUI cases for enhanced DUI sentencing - but only if the driver was not a minor at the time of the conviction.
Drivers under the age of 18 can only face adult charges for serious criminal offenses. DUIs do not qualify, so the case remains in juvenile court. The case becomes an adjudication, not a conviction, and thus cannot be a "prior" in future adult DUI cases. These rules are complicated. Get a defense lawyer on your side in any DUI case to prevent an underage DUI from being unfairly alleged as a prior.
Can my school punish me for an underage DUI?
Yes! Each college, university, technical school, and other educational institution sets its standards of conduct. Many schools will enact disciplinary procedures for students who face criminal charges - or even civil offenses related to DUI. Check your school’s code of conduct carefully. Some schools even require students to report their offenses, and failure to do so can constitute a separate violation.
Our defense lawyers can help you determine how and when to report an underage DUI to your school and advise you on how to deal with disciplinary proceedings to minimize the impact on your education.
Will my car insurance go up after an underage DUI?
Almost always, the answer to this question is yes. Insurance carriers can raise your rates based on any driving infraction. Even speeding tickets and other traffic offenses can go against you. An underage DUI - even if it is not a criminal matter - can be used to raise your insurance premiums.
But before any of this happens, the driver must post a bond to reinstate their driving privileges at the end of the suspension period. This bond is known as an SR-22. The bond provides the proof of financial responsibility that the law requires. It is more secure than insurance because the bond provides the full amount of financial responsibility without the risk of lapsed insurance coverage.
Experienced, Aggressive Orange County DUI Defense Lawyers For Underage DUI
The experienced DUI attorneys at Chudnovsky Law are here to help. We have experience fighting civil offenses related to underage DUI, criminal charges, and administrative suspensions through the DMV. You don’t have to face these complicated matters on your own.
The experienced Orange County underage DUI defense lawyers at Chudnovsky Law are here to protect your legal rights in civil court, criminal court, and at the DMV. Contact us at (949) 750-2500 for your free consultation. The sooner you have an underage DUI defense attorney on your side, the better protected your legal rights are.
By waiting and wondering whether you need to call a lawyer, you risk an unnecessary license suspension and other consequences. Even though underage offenses are civil infractions, you still need to strongest possible defense to avoid serious consequences.