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Graduation and Prom: Avoiding Underage DUI

By Criminal Defense Attorney on May 8, 2018

As graduation and prom approach, California teens may be planning to do more than attend ceremonies and dances. This time of year also has many teens tasting their first alcoholic beverage. Unfortunately, many teen drinkers then get behind the wheel.

If you are caught and charged with underage DUI, you will face serious penalties that could follow you for the rest of your life. If you are arrested, do not wait – call a San Diego DUI defense attorney at JD Law. We do not believe one mistake should destroy your future, and we will work hard to make sure it does not.

Laws on Underage Drinking and Driving in California

There are two laws that deal with underage drinking and driving in California. The first is California’s zero tolerance law, which can be found in Vehicle Code 23156 VC. Under this law, those who are under the age of 21 cannot drive with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.01%. Teens may violate this law when they have consumed alcoholic beverages, but also when they use medicines or even mouthwash that contains alcohol. And these unintentional violations will not exempt a teen from the law.

Perhaps because of the potential for unintentional violations, violating this law is not considered a crime. The only penalty a teen will face is having his or her license suspended for one year. Still, if your child is charged with violating the zero tolerance law, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney, as an attorney may be able to prevent the license suspension.

The second law that pertains to underage drinking and driving can be found in Vehicle Code 23140 VC and is often referred to as an underage DUI. To be found in violation of this charge, the underage driver must have a blood alcohol content of 0.05% or higher. While there will still be no jail time for this infraction, the penalties are much more serious than those for violations of California’s zero tolerance law.

Violating California’s underage DUI law may result in a one-year suspension of the teen’s driver’s license. In addition, there will be a $100 fine applied for a first offense, more for subsequent offenses. If the minor is over the age of 18, he or she will also be required to attend and successfully complete an alcohol education program.

Standard DUIs

A teen can be charged with a standard DUI if he or she is found to be guilty of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. This is the same charge adults face when they are caught drinking and driving. The penalties for a minor charged with a standard DUI will be the same as an adult charged with the same crime.

A standard DUI is considered a misdemeanor in California. The penalties will still include a suspension of the underage driver’s license, but it will also be accompanied with three to five years of informal, or summary, probation. Steep fines of anywhere between $390 and $1,000 can also be applied.

In addition to these penalties, the minor can also be required to successfully complete a three-month or nine-month alcohol education program. He or she may also be required to spend up to six months in jail.

The Importance of Hiring an Attorney

Because California’s underage drinking and driving laws do not carry steep penalties such as jail time, minors and their parents may not think they should hire an attorney.

However, an attorney can help in ways you may not even consider. Anyone who has had his license suspended has the right to challenge that suspension at a California DMV hearing. Criminal defense attorneys are very familiar with this process. We know how to best represent teens that have been charged with underage drinking, and can often get the suspension cancelled. If not, we will work to get a restricted hardship license for our client. These licenses allow individuals to continue to drive to work, school, or for their family in instances where there is no other transportation available.

Of course, if the minor is charged with the more serious crime of a standard DUI, hiring a criminal defense attorney is essential. Minors found guilty of a standard DUI will face much more serious penalties, including a criminal record that will follow them around for the rest of their lives. That criminal record can make it difficult for them to obtain employment, leave the country, go to certain schools, or receive federal funding.

Stay Safe This Prom and Graduation Season

We want to remind every teen to be aware of the risks of drinking and driving this prom and graduation season, to keep them and others on the road safe. It is also important for teens to know that if they do get pulled over or arrested, they should speak to an attorney right away.

A San Diego underage DUI defense attorney at JD Law can help ensure that one mistake will not follow your child around for the rest of his or her life. For a free consultation, please call us at (760) 630-2000 today.

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James N. Dicks

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