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San Diego Underage DUI Attorney

How Underage DUIs Are Handled in California

While California does have specific laws pertaining to underage drinking and driving, otherwise known as underage DUIs, the penalties are similar to those anyone would be subjected to, regardless of age. In California, there are three laws applied specifically to people under the age of 21 who have alcohol in their blood or in the vehicle with them. In the most serious cases, underage drinkers could face the same charge and penalties as someone over the age of 21 caught driving under the influence.

California’s Zero-Tolerance Policy

Under Vehicle Code 23136 VS, California has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers. No person under the age of 21 can drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.01% or higher. In theory, this is a good law, but considering that things like cough syrup and mouthwash can raise a person’s BAC over this amount, it is sometimes seen as a little strict.

If a police officer suspects that a person has violated this law, he or she will administer a roadside test, typically in the form of a breathalyzer. If charged with an underage DUI, the driver risks losing his driver’s license for one year. A defense attorney can attend the DMV hearing with the underage driver to challenge the suspension, or to help the driver obtain a restricted hardship license, which would allow him or her to drive to work or school when there are no other means of transportation.

Underage Driving with a BAC 0.05% or More

Under California Vehicle Code 23140 VC, it is against the law for anyone under the age of 21 to drive when his BAC is 0.05% or greater. If the person is stopped while driving and the officer suspects the person’s BAC is near this level, he or she will likely be taken down to the police station. There, he or she will be given either a more in-depth breath test or a DUI blood test.

Because underage drivers charged with this crime are considered to be a greater risk than those charged under California’s zero-tolerance policy, the penalties are also greater. Along with a one-year suspension of his driver’s license, the underage driver will also be charged a fine up to $100 and will have to enroll in a DUI course if over the age of 18.

Underage Driving with a BAC 0.08% or More

When a person’s BAC is 0.08% or higher, he is not legally allowed to drive regardless of his age. When an underage person driving has this BAC level, the consequences are much tougher; largely the same as those for someone over the legal drinking age found committing the same crime.

When found driving over this legal limit, an underage person can still lose his driver’s license for one year, but the fines he will face can be anywhere from $390 to $1,000. He can be placed on three to five years of informal probation and be required to attend a DUI course anywhere from three to nine months long. In the most serious cases, he may also be required to spend up to six months in a county jail.

Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle

Those under the age of 21 in California must be careful, not only when they get behind the wheel, but also when they are carrying alcohol inside their vehicles. Under California’s open container law, alcohol is only allowed inside a vehicle if it is full and unopened. There are certain defenses to this crime, such as the underage driver was getting rid of the alcohol because an adult requested it. But the penalties are actually more severe than being found with alcohol in your system.

When an open container of alcohol is found inside of a vehicle with an underage driver and no adult present, he or she may face a fine of up to $1,000, have his/her driver’s license suspended for up to one year, and have that vehicle impounded for up to 30 days.

The laws surrounding underage drinking and driving in California are clear. Being convicted of these crimes can have a serious impact on a young person’s future. If you have been charged with underage drinking, contact JD Law at (760) 630-2000. San Diego drunk driving defense attorney James N. Dicks knows the defenses to underage DUI, and he can help you beat the charge so it does not interfere with the rest of your life.

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James N. Dicks

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