When a young person gets arrested for DUI, it reflects a momentary lack of judgment. Teenagers and 20-year-olds don’t understand how strongly alcohol affects them. They’re also more willing to experiment and take risks than older adults. This means a surprising number of young people will get behind the wheel after having drinks—with absolutely no desire to hurt anyone.
Unfortunately, this one-time mistake can have lifelong consequences. Drivers under the age of 21 are not shown mercy by the courts. They actually face tougher DUI standards than a driver of legal drinking age. It falls to you, their parent or legal guardian, to guide them and protect them. The best way to do that is to:
- Educate yourself about DUI law and the penalties your child faces,
- Understand how a DUI can have life altering consequences for your child,
- Learn how to defend your child from a DUI charge, and
- Get professional legal help.
We’ll cover each of these topics in detail.
DUI Penalties for Underage Drivers in Los Angeles
Underage drivers face many of the same penalties that adult drivers do, and are held to a “Zero Tolerance” standard in California. If your child is pulled over with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system, they could face all of the following penalties:
- One year suspension of driver’s license
- Fines of $100 or more plus court assessments
- Three to five years of DUI probation
- A jail sentence ranging from two days to six months
In most cases, the prosecution will charge your child not with multiple DUI charges. There are three separate underage DUI laws and prosecutors can pursue all of them at once. These laws include driving with any alcohol in the system (.01% blood alcohol or higher); driving with .05% blood alcohol in the system; and driving over the legal adult limit of .08% blood alcohol. The prosecutor only has to prove one of these charges for your child to face a conviction.
For a more detailed look at underage DUI charges, see our complete guide.
Life Altering DUI Consequences
No parent wants their child to go to jail or pay steep fines. But these are not the longest-lasting consequences of a DUI. The real threat to a young adult is that the rest of their life can be defined by a single foolish mistake.
The impact of a DUI can include:
- College rejection. Schools can ask about criminal history as part of admissions, and may choose not to admit your child based on their DUI.
- Employment challenges. Employers routinely ask about criminal record during hiring. Many will look at a DUI as an instant disqualification. Others may pass over your child for an equally qualified candidate with a clean record.
- Financial hardship. The costs of a DUI do not end with fines and court fees, or even insurance hikes. If your child caused an accident, they may have to pay restitution or compensation to the other party. They may be sued in a civil law suit, and the damages can skyrocket. This money will be garnished from their wages at a future job if necessary.
As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your child from these consequences. And they will need your help to get through them. But you need to understand how a lawyer fights a DUI both in and out of court.
Defending against an Underage DUI in Los Angeles
There are many defenses against a DUI charge that can work in front of a jury. But a good DUI lawyer doesn’t want your case to go that far. They prefer to win it for you before you even get to trial—securing the best outcome possible without the risk of a courtroom conviction.
An experienced DUI lawyer will use several tactics:
- Relationships with prosecutors. Prosecutors are human. Their job is to convict criminals but they also understand that kids make mistakes. A good DUI lawyer will already have a working knowledge of the prosecutor and their take on underage DUI cases. They might be able to get the prosecutor to knock the charge down to something less serious, simply by negotiating.
- Knowing the judge. Every judge views underage DUI differently. Some are forgiving and want to help kids get their lives back on track. Others are strict and want to teach kids a lesson. Your lawyer will tailor their arguments and their approach to the attitude of the judge in question.
- Overturning evidence. The case against your child depends on proof that they were under the influence. That proof is usually established through a blood or breath test. Your DUI lawyer can request data on the testing device or lab and potentially move to have it excluded if there are any irregularities. This is far more common than you think.
Getting a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer You Can Trust
The most important thing you can do to help your child is get them an experienced, reputable DUI lawyer. Your lawyer’s goal is to help your child keep their record DUI-free and be able to move on with their life. They may be able to secure an acquittal, a case dismissal, or simply get the charge reduced to something your child can live with. They can also help you expunge a crime off your child’s record so that it won’t show up on most background checks.
Don’t let one mistake ruin your child’s life. Let us connect you with a DUI lawyer you can count on. We work with only the top Los Angeles DUI attorneys and we can get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 896-2724 and get your FREE consultation today.