If you are an underage (under 21) driver in California you may be subject to criminal charges and possible penalties if you are stopped by law enforcement and any amount of alcohol is detected in your system.
In California, underage DUI laws are extremely strict. While it is against the law for minors to consume alcohol, incidents of underage drinking and driving still occur. Unfortunately, minors can make mistakes that can have disastrous consequences. The repercussions of drinking and driving extend beyond the possibility of a fatal car crash, a DUI conviction, if you are under the legal drinking age, can carry penalties that stay with you for quite a while.
California has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers convicted of DUI. If you are under the age of 21 you are subject to California Vehicle Code Section 23136 which makes it a criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01% or greater. You may be thinking that 0.01% is a very low amount, and that is exactly the point, if you are under the legal drinking age and you have any measurable amount of alcohol in your system while driving you could be charged with DUI.
California also has what is known as “implied consent” laws for drivers who are under the age of 21. Implied consent laws mean that your consent to a chemical test to determine your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is implied. As a result, if you are asked to submit to a chemical test and you refuse you will face automatic license suspension for up to three years in addition to any penalties that may result from a DUI conviction.
As you can tell, California takes underage drinking and driving very seriously and the consequences can affect you for many years.
Underage DUI Penalties
DUI convictions for underage drivers can have multiple penalties and these penalties depend on the circumstances of your case. If you are charged with having a BAC of 0.01% or higher you will face a one-year driver’s license suspension. If you had a BAC of 0.05% or higher, however, in addition to facing license suspension you may also have to pay fines and may be ordered to complete an alcohol education program. If you had a BAC of 0.08% or higher you could be charged with misdemeanor DUI, which is a standard DUI charge in California. If convicted of misdemeanor DUI you could face up to six months in county jail, fines, and driver’s license suspension for one year.
Depending on the circumstances of your case you may be charged with other criminal offenses such as minor in possession, soliciting alcohol, and even child endangerment. In addition to legal trouble, it is likely that a DUI conviction will result in increased insurance rates and a DUI conviction on your record can make it difficult when it comes to receiving or maintaining college scholarships as well as financial aid. DUI convictions on your record can also make it difficult to apply for and obtain employment.
If you injure or kill someone as a result of driving under the influence you can face additional misdemeanor or felony charges. In fact, sometimes children over a certain age (typically 16) who are charged with a serious felony offense, such as felony DUI, may be charged as an adult and not a juvenile. The prosecutor or judge may decide to treat a juvenile as an adult if the charge is serious or if the juvenile has previous criminal convictions. While in most instances it is unlikely that a minor would be prosecuted as an adult in DUI cases, it is possible if someone was injured or killed as a result of the minor driving under the influence.
Call the Law Office of Gregory W. Fox Today
If you have been charged with suspicion of driving under the influence you need to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. Call us at (559) 222-5800 to schedule your free initial consultation where you can confidentially discuss the details of your case. In most instances, an appointment can be scheduled for the same day.