Underage DUI California: Drunk driving by a Minor

When it comes to charges for underage DUI , California has some the harshest penalties in the United States. Generally, anyone under the legal drinking age of 21 years who is arrested with a blood alcohol content of even .01% can be charged with a DUI, compared to the usual .08% limit for of-age adults. If the accused has a BAC of .05% or greater (CA Vehicle Code 23140), then they may be charged with both an underage DUI and a traditional DUI and could be arrested. In order to understand the gravity of this particular “Zero Tolerance Law” (CA Vehicle Code 23136), it is necessary to understand that a .01% BAC can be effected by drinking only one 1.25 ounce serving of liquor, one 4-ounce glass of wine, or one 12-ounce beer. Additionally, a serving of such aforementioned amounts might bring an individual, depending on their particular body type, weight, etc., to the level of .05%.


If a person under the age of 18 years is convicted of an underage DUI, California law states that they will certainly lose their driving privileges for a period of one year (or, until their 18th birthday, whichever time period is longer). If the offender does not have a driver’s license yet, then the privilege of obtaining one may be suspended for a one-year period, depending upon whether it is a first offense or subsequent DUI. If the offender refuses a test of BAC, then the penalty may be a period of three years. Much of the decision as to how to handle under-18 DUI cases is up to individual judges, and further penalties to this effect may include confiscation of the driver’s vehicle, sentencing to drug and alcohol education and counseling courses, amongst other things. As with a traditional DUI, second and subsequent offenses will result in correspondingly greater penalties. Refusals to submit to BAC testing will result in the same, and in either case, the individual’s driver’s license will be suspended for a period of one year.


An underage DUI California conviction can bring both criminal and administrative penalties. Whereas the DMV acts upon the suspension of the person’s driver’s license, criminal charges and convictions may result, as with any other DUI. However, there are more life-long consequences to consider with underage DUIs. For example, an underage individual that has been convicted of an underage DUI must list it on their college applications. Although this may not cause the applicant to be barred from entry into the college of their choice, it is certainly a factor that many college admissions committees take into account, and it may mean that, all other qualifications being equal, the prospective student may not be admitted. Furthermore, if the individual is already a student attending a college or university, there may be further penalties enacted by the college or university administrations themselves. In fact, a student may be barred from completing the course of study that they are already earning credits toward and forced to pursue another avenue.


For those under 21, a .05% or higher BAC while driving constitutes an underage DUI. California criminal penalties generally include a $100 fine for the first offense, $200 for a second offense within one year of the first, and a $300 fine for a third or subsequent conviction. If, however, the convicted individual is underage and has a BAC of .05%-.07%, then in addition to being subject to the aforementioned fines and losing driving privileges for a period of one year, one might be forced to attend a three-month alcohol and drug education program and to participate in a “Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program.” The Youthful Drunk Driving Program includes a required visit to the coroner’s office, a treatment center for drug and alcohol dependency, and/or a hospital emergency room in order to observe victims of drug and alcohol abuse. Other penalties may vary from $390- $1,000 in fines and up to one year’s sentence in a county jail. If you’ve been charged with underage DUI, San Jose law firm Summit Defense is here to help. Give us a call to schedule an appointment.



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