Under 21 There's No Alternative

Underage DUI Attorneys in California

What Happens If You Get a DUI When Under 21?

Many arrests for DUI are of drivers who are under the age of 21. These drivers are not legally allowed to drink alcohol, which means that they could be facing even more penalties than an adult driver would face. In California, DUI is defined differently for those who are not 21 years old, which means the charges are quite serious. Not only will the minor face the same penalties as an adult for DUI, but they will typically receive further penalties, which could affect the future of the individual charged. If you or your child are facing these charges, the Law Offices of Randy Collins is here to help.

Call us at (844) 241-1221 today. Our California underage DUI lawyers are prepared to defend your rights and future.

Understanding the Zero Tolerance Underage DUI Laws in CA

For an adult in California, the blood alcohol content will need to be at least 0.08% in order to be considered guilty of a DUI. However, this is not the case for those who are underage. Because of the Zero Tolerance law in California, any alcohol in an underage driver’s system will cause them to be charged with a DUI. There are different levels of penalties based on just how much alcohol the underage driver has in their system. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

If the BAC is 0.01% or greater, the driver that is found guilty will lose their license for a year. This shows how serious the state is about zero tolerance. However, it will not count as a criminal DUI charge and the driver will not face jail time. It also means that they will not have a DUI on their record. While it is certainly troublesome to lose a license for a year, there is at least the benefit that the driver will not have to worry about having a DUI on their record.

Those who are pulled over and who have a BAC of 0.05% or higher would not receive a DUI if they were over 21. However, those who are underage will be facing a criminal charge and there will be a DUI on their record. The driver will not face time in jail, but they will lose their license for a year and they will be required to pay a $100 fine. In addition, they will have to attend a three-month DUI course, which they will have to pay for.

For underage drivers who have a BAC of 0.08% or greater, the same laws that apply to adults will apply to them. This means that they are going to be facing a range of criminal charges, as well as a substantial amount of fines and fees for court. They can also be facing up to six months in jail or juvenile custody. Additionally, they will have to pay for and take a three to nine-month DUI course. The driver’s license will be suspended, as well, and they will end up on probation, often for several years.

When You Have A BAC Of 0.05 Or Higher

If you are 21 years old or older, the “legal limit” is 0.08. While the effective “legal limit” is 0.01 if you are under 21, additional penalties apply if your BAC is at least 0.05 but less than 0.08.

A violation of California’s “underage DUI” law is an infraction rather than a crime. That means you will not face jail time if you are convicted of the offense.

In addition to your license suspension you can face:

  • A fine of $100 (or more for a second or subsequent offense);
  • Mandatory attendance at an alcohol education program; and
  • Vehicle impoundment if you have a prior conviction.

Unlike the “zero tolerance” law, a “DUI Under 21” charge is prosecuted in court. Unless you default by failing to act, you can demand a trial. A lawyer can help you defend against the accusation.

When You Have A BAC Of 0.08 Or Higher

Being under 21 does not protect you from being prosecuted for the same driving under the influence laws that apply to drivers over the age of 21. Any driver who drives with a BAC of 0.08 or higher can be prosecuted for a crime. A first offense is a misdemeanor. The one-year license suspension required by the “zero tolerance” law is longer than a driver who is 21 or older would receive.

Additional penalties include:

  • A maximum fine of $1,000
  • Informal probation for up to five years
  • Required participation in an alcohol education program
  • Up to 6 months in custody
  • Harsher penalties apply to subsequent convictions

The Importance of Proof of Impairment

Most alcohol-related driving offenses are based on chemical test results. If you refused a test, if results are unavailable for some other reason, or if you tested less than 0.08, you can still be prosecuted for operating a vehicle while under the influence. A driving under the influence charge requires proof that, as the result of consuming alcohol, your ability to drive safely was impaired.

Prosecutors usually try to prove driving under the influence by introducing evidence of bad driving, such as weaving or failing to avoid an accident. Additional evidence might include poor performance on field sobriety exams or an officer’s observations of your difficulty maintaining your balance, your slurred speech, your glassy eyes, or other indications that you were not sober.

The penalties for DUI are the same as those for driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. Driving with a prohibited BAC is simply a method of proving DUI that does not require proof of impairment.

If You Refused the Test

If you refuse to take the preliminary screening examination, your license will also be suspended for one year (or longer if you have a prior alcohol-related driving conviction). Your vehicle may also be impounded for at least five days.

If you are arrested for an alcohol-related driving offense, you may be asked to submit to an additional chemical test of your breath or blood. The same penalties apply to refusing that test.

If you refuse, you will receive documents advising you of your right to a hearing to challenge the allegation that you refused it.

Common defenses raised at refusal hearings are:

  • The police stopped your vehicle without having a reasonable suspicion that you violated a traffic regulation or committed a crime
  • The police requested an examination without having a reasonable belief that you had consumed alcohol
  • The police did not give you the required explanation of your obligation to take the test or the consequences of refusing it
  • You did not refuse to take it but the officer misinterpreted your statements or conduct as a refusal
  • You tried to take it but a medical condition (such as asthma) prevented you from completing it successfully

You will have a much better chance of prevailing at a refusal hearing if an appropriate defense is selected and presented by an experienced DUI defense attorney.

How Your Driver’s License Is Affected

You do not need to be convicted of a DUI in court to experience the consequences of DUI laws, including the “zero tolerance” law. Your license to operate a vehicle can be suspended merely because your result was 0.01 or higher.

The Suspension/Revocation Order that the officer gives you will have instructions for requesting an Administrative Suspension Hearing. You need to request the hearing within 10 days. The address to which the request must be sent will be printed on the Suspension/Revocation Order.

If you request a hearing, the suspension will not go into effect until the hearing is held. The hearing is conducted by the DMV, not by a court. You will have a better chance of prevailing at the hearing if you are represented by a lawyer.

Defenses commonly raised to an administrative suspension are:

  • The officer did not have a legal justification for stopping you
  • The officer had no legal justification for asking you to submit to a test
  • The officer had not followed proper procedures

What About Impaired Driving?

Keep in mind that the laws for DUI are not always going to be dependent on the blood alcohol content. In those cases where the driver was driving erratically or dangerously because they had been drinking, it will be considered a DUI. In addition, the penalties for impaired driving and dangerous swerving are going to be the same as those who have a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

Charges Can Stack

Something else that is important to know regarding underage drinking and driving is that the penalties can stack on top of one another. Those who have a BAC of 0.05% and who weave across lanes, for example, are in violation of the zero-tolerance law for starters. In addition, they have more than 0.05% BAC, so they are in violation of the underage DUI laws, which will put a charge on their record and require fines and a DUI course. However, since they were also weaving, they are going to be facing impaired driving penalties, which are the same as having a BAC of 0.08% or higher. The officer that makes the arrest will charge the driver with all of the violations and stack them.

However, the arrest is only going to count as a single DUI. Still, there are some rather serious problems that can stem from this arrest. Colleges, for example, are allowed to ask a person about their criminal history when they are applying. Employers are going to ask about criminal history, as well. Having a DUI can affect your ability to get into college and to get a job.

Get Help from an Underage DUI Attorney in California

Those who are underage and facing a DUI or who have a loved one who is a minor facing a DUI should make sure they get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help in getting a deal offered for a lesser penalty or even having the charges dropped entirely in some cases. A good attorney can make a big difference.

Arguments can also be made about the accuracy of the results, but those are unlikely to prevail unless your test was only slightly above the 0.01 threshold. In any event, an experienced DUI lawyer can tell you whether you should contest an administrative suspension.

To get started with a free initial consultation, contact the Law Offices of Randy Collins today.


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