DUI regulations for underage drivers are higher than for drivers of legal drinking age. While the adult limit is 0.08 percent BAC, for anyone under 21, the limit is 0.05 percent BAC. If a California driver is caught with a BAC over the legal limit, they can face fines, mandatory attendance in an alcohol education program, and a driver’s license suspension.
Each state handles these violations differently; in California, the infraction (VC 23140) does not typically result in jail time.
The violation can result in:
- Fine of $100 for a first offense
- One-year license suspension for a first offense
- The mandatory alcohol education program of three months or more
A DUI conviction on your driving record at a young age can affect the rest of your life. A first offense is damaging, but any subsequent offenses and aggravating factors worsen matters. You will need to hire a California underage DUI defense lawyer.
- What is Considered Underage Drinking in California?
- What are the penalties for underage drinking and driving?
- Zero tolerance DUI
- Standard DUI
- Underage Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle
- Possession of marijuana
- What if an underage driver refuses a breath test?
- Challenging a license suspension
- Is it possible to get a restricted license?
- How can you fight DUI charges?
- Call a DUI Defense Attorney Today
What is Considered Underage Drinking in California?
Vehicle Code 23140 VC sets specific requirements that you must meet for an underage DUI:
- You are under 21
- You are driving a motor vehicle
- You are under the influence when you are driving
- Your BAC is 0.05 percent or more when you are driving
If law enforcement can prove these four essential elements, you can face an underage DUI charge. Knowing how BAC is measured is vital, especially if you are underage. Upon a lawful arrest, you will have a choice to undergo either a breath test or a blood test. Most often, the breath test is readily available. Under no circumstances can a California driver refuse a chemical test. If you refuse a test, there are legal consequences regardless of age.
You will suffer a one-year license suspension if you refuse a chemical test under 21. You will be unable to get your driving privileges back, and you can be subject to other consequences. There are ways to fight a chemical test, but you must immediately speak with a California DUI defense lawyer.
Additionally, you can face multiple charges for a DUI offense. While some states allow the court to throw the book at defendants, California does not allow a person to have multiple convictions for the same behavior. While you can face charges for two DUI violations, you can only face one conviction.
One exception to having multiple convictions is Vehicle Code 23136, zero tolerance underage DUI. The exception is the zero-tolerance code is a civil offense, while other DUI violations are criminal. Therefore you can face a civil and criminal offense and have two convictions for the same behavior.
An open container violation of Vehicle Code 23244 opens you up to a potential misdemeanor charge. Another instance where you can face two convictions is when you are under 21 and have an open alcohol container. It is best to always get immediate legal advice from a California DUI defense lawyer to ensure you do not face additional and unnecessary charges.
What are the penalties for underage drinking and driving?
An underage DUI in California does not result in jail time, but there are several other consequences you can face. Since an underage DUI is an infraction, it has fewer consequences than an adult DUI.
Some of the consequences for an underage DUI in California include:
- Fines of $100 or more
- Alcoholic education program for a minimum of three months if you are 18 (DUI Diversion Program)
- Driver’s license suspension by the DMV
You can also have your vehicle impounded from the scene for five days when you have a prior underage DUI conviction or standard DUI conviction and a BAC over .10 percent. If you refuse a chemical test, you can also have your vehicle impounded. Learn more about harsher penalties for DUI in our legal blog.
Zero tolerance DUI
Drinking underage is a civil offense and has various consequences in every state. The legal drinking age across the nation is 21, and when you combine that with driving, the consequences can be harrowing. However, those under 21 cannot buy alcohol alone, and someone else is likely to blame if they are under the influence. Even so, California has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. Anyone under 21 is strictly prohibited from having a BAC of 0.01 or higher.
The zero tolerance law does not only apply to alcoholic beverages but also to other items that can contain alcohol, like medications. If you have a prescription for the medication, it is a valid defense for the zero-tolerance policy. Impairment makes no difference on this charge.
The law is lenient on underage drivers since it is often due to a lack of education or another party is to blame. The primary consequence of the zero-tolerance policy is a one-year driver’s license suspension. Unfortunately, the license suspension can stay on your record and affect your insurance rates moving forward. It is ideal to hire a California DUI defense lawyer.
There are some critical differences between an underage DUI and a standard DUI. You must have a BAC of 0.08 percent for a standard DUI and be impaired while driving. Unlike an underage DUI, an infraction, a standard DUI is a misdemeanor.
First-time standard DUIs come with the following penalties:
- Fines ranging from $390 and $1,000
- Driver’s license suspension
- Six months in jail
- Three to five years of informal probation
- Three to nine months alcohol education program
An underage DUI can affect the penalties you suffer for a standard DUI. in some instances, you can face a standard DUI charge even if you are underage. Always contact a California DUI lawyer, no matter how minor you think the infraction or charge may be,
Underage Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle
In addition to consuming alcohol, it is also illegal for anyone under 21 to have an open container. The only time in California a person under 21 can transport alcohol in their vehicle is when the container is full, unopened, and sealed.
They can also:
- Be with a parent or other adult
- Transporting it as part of their employment duty
- Disposing of the alcohol on behalf of their parent or another adult
Transporting alcohol can sometimes be charged in addition to underage DUI. It is a misdemeanor with penalties like vehicle impoundment, fines of $1,000, and a driver’s license suspension of one year.
Possession of marijuana
In addition to alcohol, underage drivers can also face a charge for driving with the possession of marijuana. In California, you cannot drive with marijuana that is not in a container or the seal of the container is broken. It is also an infraction with the potential of a $100 fine. Smoking while driving is an infraction with a similar penalty, and a passenger in a moving vehicle can also not drink alcohol or consume marijuana.
Drivers can also face some consequences if a passenger drinks or uses marijuana in the car, depending on the circumstances. Underage alcohol possession and marijuana possession are similar charges with similar penalties. Even if you believe they are minor, there are serious penalties, and you will need to get legal advice from a California defense lawyer.
What if an underage driver refuses a breath test?
In California, you cannot refuse a chemical test without consequence. If a driver refuses a test or fails to complete it after arrest, there will be an automatic one-year license suspension.
The DMV can also revoke the driver’s license for a minimum of two years when there is a prior conviction for:
- DUI or wet reckless
- Chemical test refusal
Defending a refusal for a drug test is challenging, and most drivers will need to wait for the suspension to be over before they can take action. You can attempt to get a restricted license, but the DMV often refuses these when they realize the charge or conviction is due to a chemical test refusal.
Challenging a license suspension
You can often challenge a license suspension, including for a chemical test refusal. You will need to request a license suspension hearing with the California DMV. Requesting a hearing within ten days of your chemical refusal citation is essential. Typically the hearing is over the phone unless you ask it to be in person. When you have a California DUI defense lawyer, they can handle the hearing on your behalf, and you may not need to attend at all.
If you lose your hearing, you have other options. You can request a restricted license or appeal the hearing. During an appeal, you must write a request and submit a $120 payment within 15 days. The DMV will cancel the license suspension at the hearing if you win or your lawyer wins on your behalf.
A California DUI defense lawyer will work to avoid a license suspension, but you need to contact them quickly. If all other legal options fail, you must wait out your suspension. At the end of the suspension, you will pay the $125 reissue fee and file a proof of financial responsibility form SR-22. You may need to keep the SR-22 for three years after you get your license back.
Is it possible to get a restricted license?
If you are an underage driver who loses at the DMV hearing, you can apply for a compulsory use license, also known as a restricted hardship license. It works similarly to a learner’s permit with several restrictions, which allows drivers to get around for limited purposes. You can drive to and from school or work. You can not get a restricted license if the suspension was due to a refusal to take a chemical test or if you have alternative transportation to get around.
How can you fight DUI charges?
Since a DUI offense can alter your life, it is important to have a solid defense. There are various defenses a California DUI defense lawyer can use to help you when you are facing an underage DUI charge.
Some of these defenses include:
- The DUI test equipment did not work: It does not have the proper calibration.
- The officer conducting the test did not follow procedures: The officer did not have adequate training to use the device or did not administer 15-minutes of continuous observation before the test. They must also advise you of the consequences of refusing a chemical test, give you concise instructions on the administration of the test and inform you of your Miranda rights.
- The officers unlawfully arrested or stopped you: If the traffic stop did not have probable cause, they cannot administer a chemical test. Without probable cause, police cannot pull you over or place you under arrest.
- You were not driving: Sleeping it off in your car is a valid defense for you not drinking and driving. You should not get a DUI if the vehicle is not in operation.
- You are within the margin of error: Your California DUI defense lawyer can persuade the court that your chemical test was within the margin of error and did not surpass the legal limit.
- The alcohol in your mouth comes from a different source: Residual alcohol in your mouth can appear on a chemical test even though you have not had a drink. Aside from liquor, other products produce alcohol and leave residue in your mouth. Most often, the following items can contribute to residual mouth alcohol:
- Mouthwash or breath spray
- High protein and low carbohydrate diet
- Medical conditions like hypoglycemia, acid reflux, or diabetes
- Your BAC while driving was lower than during the test. Meaning it was still rising at the time of your test: Alcohol will increase after consumption, and so will your BAC. The peak can occur 30 minutes or hours after the initial consumption. An expert witness can show a timeline that implies your BAC was lower when you were driving than when you were given the test.
Call a DUI Defense Attorney Today
Can you fight a DUI charge without a lawyer? Its definitely in your best interest to speak to an DUI defense attorney about your case. Other defenses can be available depending on the specific charges you are facing. It is critical to meet with a California DUI defense lawyer to find the best defense for your charges.