Underage DUI Attorneys in Orange County
What Happens if You Get a DUI When Under 21?
Orange County has two laws concerning underage driving under the influence offenses. One applies when persons under 21 years of age operate a motor vehicle and have any alcohol in their system. The other applies when underage drivers have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05% or higher. A conviction for either offense may result in serious consequences. If you or your child has been accused of underage DUI in Orange County, get skilled legal representation on your side right away. Fighting the accusations takes time, research, and a thorough understanding of the law.
At the Law Offices of Randy Collins, our underage DUI defense lawyers in Orange County have over 45 years of combined experience. We have handled thousands of cases and have a track record of results. Our founding attorney, Randy Collins, is a former deputy district attorney who knows how the other side thinks. With our knowledge, skills, and resources, we are well-equipped to take on even the most challenging cases and build and present compelling defenses. We are ready to listen to your side of the story and do what it takes to seek an optimal outcome on your behalf.
Orange County's Zero Tolerance Law
Orange County Vehicle Code § 23136 is often referred to as Orange County's Zero Tolerance law for underage DUIs. It provides that a person under 21 commits a violation when they drive after consuming any amount of alcohol. Specifically, the statute states that the driver cannot have a blood-alcohol concentration of .01% or more while operating a vehicle.
Orange County's Underage DUI Law
Section 23140 of the Orange County Vehicle Code concerns persons under 21 years of age driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.05% or greater. Note that the individual does not have to be drunk to be charged with this offense. If they are under the influence of or affected by alcohol, they are considered in violation of the law.
Orange County's DUI Law Applies to Underage Drivers
Although a person under 21 years of age may face penalties under Orange County Vehicle Code §§ 23136 or 23140, that does not mean they cannot be prosecuted under Orange County's DUI law. Pursuant to Vehicle Code 23152, a person may be charged with and convicted of driving under the influence if their abilities are impaired and they cannot safely operate a vehicle or they have a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher.
The law applies to any person who operates a vehicle on Orange County roads, not just to drivers 21 years of age or older. Thus, someone under 21 years of age may face DUI charges if they are impaired by alcohol or their blood-alcohol concentration is at or above the legal limit. Additionally, if they are convicted, they face the same penalties a person 21 years of age or older faces.
Orange County's Underage Implied Consent Laws
Under implied consent laws, when a person operates a vehicle after consuming or while under the influence of alcohol, they are deemed to have given their permission to be tested to determine the level of alcohol in their system. Orange County's implied consent laws apply to people under 21 years of age suspected of driving under the influence. However, separate laws apply depending on the situation, and different requirements exist for each.
Implied Consent and Zero Tolerance Laws
A person under 21 years of age lawfully detained for DUI is deemed to have given their consent to be subject to either a preliminary alcohol screening or a chemical test. A preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) is typically conducted with a handheld device that measures alcohol content based on a breath sample. A chemical test may consist of a blood, breath, or urine analysis and is completed on more stationary devices.
If an officer has lawfully detained the driver after having reasonable cause to believe that they were violating the Zero Tolerance law and the driver refuses either a PAS or chemical test, the individual may be subject to a driver's license suspension or revocation.
The suspension/revocation periods are as follows:
- First offense: 1-year suspension
- Second offense within 10 years: 2-year revocation
- Third offense or subsequent offense within 10 years: 3-year revocation
Implied Consent and Underage DUI Laws
Under Orange County Vehicle Code § 23612, if a person under 21 years of age is lawfully arrested on suspicion of violating the underage DUI law, they are deemed to have given their consent to be subject to a chemical test. Note that this differs from the requirements applied to underage drivers in violation of the Zero Tolerance law in two ways. First, concerning the underage DUI law, the driver has given implied consent only after a lawful arrest, whereas with a Zero Tolerance violation, consent is given after a lawful detention. Second, drivers suspected of violating the underage DUI law are required to participate only in the chemical test; in contrast, drivers suspected of violating the Zero Tolerance law, are deemed to have given consent for the PAS and/or chemical test.
If the driver suspected of underage DUI refuses the chemical test, they may be subject to driver's license suspension or revocation as follows:
- First offense: 1-year suspension
- Second offense within 10 years: 2-year revocation
- Third or subsequent offense within 10 years: 3-year revocation
Defenses at a Refusal Hearing
Individuals subject to an administrative driver's license suspension for an alcohol-related driving offense may challenge the action at a hearing. The driver must request the hearing within 10 days of receiving the notice of suspension/revocation.
Common defenses that are raised include:
- The police officer stopped the driver without having reasonable suspicion that the driver violated a law
- The police officer requested a PAS or chemical test without having a reasonable belief that the driver consumed alcohol
- The police officer did not give the required explanation of the consequences of refusing
- The driver did not refuse the test, but the officer misinterpreted their conduct or statements as refusal
- The driver tried to take the test, but a medical condition prevented them from completing it
Underage DUI Penalties
The penalties assessed for an underage DUI violation depend on the circumstances.
A violation of Orange County's Zero Tolerance law is a civil offense, meaning no criminal penalties are imposed. However, the Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend the individual’s driving privileges for 1 year.
A violation of Orange County's underage DUI law is an infraction.
A conviction does not result in jail time, but it can lead to the following penalties:
- $100 fine for a first offense
- $200 fine for a second offense
- $300 fine for a third or subsequent offense
- Completion of an alcohol education program
- Vehicle impoundment
A violation of Orange County Vehicle Code § 23152 is a misdemeanor.
A person under 21 years of age convicted of this offense may be subject to the following penalties:
- Up to 6 months in jail
- Between $390 and $1,000 in fines
- Driver's license suspension for 6 months
College Student DUIs
Generally, college students do not reach 21 years of age until their junior year. However, they may be exposed to activities and events where drinking occurs and might have an alcoholic beverage or two. Note that even a few drinks can elevate a person's blood-alcohol concentration.
If a college student gets behind the wheel after only a couple of drinks, they might violate either of Orange County's underage DUI laws. Depending on how much they have had to drink, their blood-alcohol concentration may be at or above .08%, which means they may be charged with a regular DUI.
Any DUI conviction can profoundly affect a college student's life. For instance, losing driving privileges can make it difficult to get to and from school, which means the student might miss classes and their grades could slip. Having to pay a fine can put a significant dent in the student's wallet, making it challenging to pay for necessities. And being sentenced to jail for any amount of time can result in missing lectures.
If you are a college student accused of a DUI in Orange County, a lot is at stake. Reach out to the Law Offices of Randy Collins to learn about options for fighting the accusations against you.
Ways the Prosecution Tries to Prove Guilt
Most alcohol-related driving offense convictions are based on chemical test results. However, if you refused a test, if results are unavailable for some reason, or if your blood-alcohol concentration was less than .08%, you could still be prosecuted for operating a vehicle while under the influence.
Prosecutors usually try to prove driving under the influence by introducing evidence of impaired driving, such as weaving or failing to avoid an accident. Additional evidence might include poor performance on field sobriety tests or an officer's observations of the driver, such as their having slurred speech or watery eyes.
Get Help from an Underage DUI Lawyer in Orange County
It is imperative that drivers facing underage DUI charges get in touch with a defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will know how to challenge the evidence and seek a favorable outcome.
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