Los Angeles Underage DUI Lawyer

Charged with an underage DUI?

California takes a tough stance when it comes to enforcing laws for driving under the influence (DUI), sometimes known as driving while intoxicated (DWI). As such, a “zero tolerance” policy applies to cases where drivers are under the legal drinking age of 21. This means that if you are under 21 years of age and have any amount of alcohol in your system, you can face serious penalties, even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is below the legal DUI limit of .08%.

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California’s “Zero Tolerance” Policy

California enforces a zero tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving. According to California Vehicle Code § 23136, this means you can face penalties for driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in your system (.01% or above).

Unlike DUI laws for drivers of drinking age, there is no legal requirement to prove that an underage driver was impaired or legally drunk. The law only considers whether an underage driver actually had any amount of alcohol in their system while driving.

The no alcohol threshold makes underage drivers vulnerable to unique issues. For example, mouthwash and cough syrup have enough alcohol to be detected by a BAC test. Although the zero tolerance policy may make cases difficult, an experienced DUI defense lawyer can create effective defense strategies to protect you from serious penalties.

Underage DUI Penalties

Penalties for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will vary depending on the unique facts of a case, a defendant’s BAC level, and their criminal history. Underage drivers charged with DUI can face criminal consequences and penalties that affect their driving privileges.

California underage DUI laws include:

  • Zero Tolerance (Vehicle Code § 23136) - VC 23136 is California’s zero tolerance law and applies in any case where a driver under the age of 21 has a BAC level of .01 or more. California Vehicle Code section 23136 is considered an infraction and is penalized by a one-year driver’s license suspension from the DMV.
  • .05 BAC or Higher (Vehicle Code § 23140) - A driver under the age of 21 with a BAC between .05 and .07 may face charges under California Vehicle Code 23140. This offense is an infraction and will not result in jail time. Instead, drivers may face a one-year driver’s license suspension, fines, and alcohol education programs.
  • .08 BAC of Higher (Vehicle Code § 23152) - Underage drivers with a BAC level of .08 or greater or who drive under the influence of drugs can be charged with a standard DUI. When this is the case, you will face misdemeanor charges and both criminal and DMV penalties. Penalties may include driver’s license suspension, fines, probation, up to 6 months in jail, and alcohol education programs, among others. Penalties can be enhanced if there are prior convictions.
  • Possession of Alcohol by Person Under 21 (Vehicle Code § 23224) - California law prohibits drivers under 21 from carrying alcohol inside of a vehicle unless the alcohol container is full, unopened, and sealed and the driver is accompanied by a parent or adult, transporting the alcohol for a parent or adult, or carrying it as part of work at an establishment that has a liquor license. Although it does not involve driving under the influence, California Vehicle Code 23224 can result in vehicle impoundment, fines up to $1,000, and a one-year driver’s license suspension.

Questions about your case? Call Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners today!

If you or your child has been arrested for an underage DUI offense, taking immediate action is crucial. A Los Angeles DUI lawyer from our firm is prepared to help you learn more about your case and how we can fight to protect your driving privileges, rights, and future.

Call today to discuss your case during a FREE and confidential case review.