Underage drunk driving is a serious concern in California. While driving under the influence of alcohol is already punished severely for people over the age of 21, the state is even less lenient with underage drivers. Any alcohol found in an underage driver’s system, even if the blood alcohol concentration is only 0.01%, is illegal.
If you or a loved one has been charged with underage DUI, contacting a DUI lawyer should be one of the first steps you consider. The right DUI lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal system and help make sure that you or your loved one is treated fairly. To schedule a free consultation with a leading DUI attorney.
For drivers who are 21 or older, the BAC threshold for a DUI charge is 0.08%. For drivers under 21, that drops down to 0.05%. Even if you turn 21 in a matter of hours, there’s a substantial difference in the amount of alcohol necessary to trigger a DUI charge.
Penalties for Underage DUI
If you’re arrested for driving with a BAC of 0.05%, you can face the following penalties:
- Points off your license and a traffic fine
- One year license suspension
- Three months of classes through a court-mandated DUI school
- Court order to not drink until 21, which carries additional penalties if violated
However, underage drivers face additional penalties if they reach the regular DUI limit by having a BAC of 0.08% or greater. In addition to the above penalties, you would also be facing:
- Three to five years of probation
- Up to $1,000 in fines, plus additional court fees
- Between two days and six months in jail
Regardless of the actual BAC, if an officer observes you swerving and then finds any alcohol in your system, an underage driver can face the same sorts of penalties you would face for having a BAC of 0.08% or greater. Even if your BAC is 0.05%, you may be charged with impaired driving.
These penalties can go on your criminal record, which can affect your ability to hold down certain jobs and may impact which colleges or universities you’re able to attend. While these are usually misdemeanor offenses.
Zero Tolerance Law
If your BAC is below 0.05% and you were not found to have been driving in a noticeably dangerous manner, California is still going to penalize you for driving with alcohol in your system if you’re under 21. Under the Zero Tolerance Law, any detectable amount of alcohol in an underage driver’s body is unacceptable.
You are also considered in violation of the Zero Tolerance law if you:
- Refuse to take a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test, either before or after you’re arrested
- You don’t complete the PAS test
If you are found to be in violation of the Zero Tolerance Law, you will find yourself with a license suspension for a full year. Unlike the other underage DUI penalties, this is not a criminal offense. As such, it won’t appear on your criminal record.
Get a DUI Attorney on Your Side to Fight an Underage DUI Charge
Getting a DUI conviction on your record at an early age can disrupt your entire life. You may have trouble getting a job, and you may not be able to pursue higher education the way you wanted to. On top of the immediate penalties you face, this can obviously ripple through the rest of your life.
However, no DUI charge is unbeatable. Even if you are underage, you are entitled to due process. If some or all the evidence against you was gathered improperly, it may be inadmissible in court. This may mean you or your lawyer can negotiate for a lesser charge or even have your case dismissed entirely.
We can help you schedule a consultation with a leading DUI attorney who has experience handling DUI cases for individuals under 21. Our attorneys will listen to the facts of your case and can let you know what to expect as your case proceeds.
Prosecutors can be aggressive when it comes to DUI charges, even if you’re under 21. Don’t stand by yourself – call us today!