Driving under the influence of drugs could have catastrop[hic effects for the driver and other road users. For this reason, California has put in measures to prevent and discourage such acts, one of which is imposing strict DUI laws. Usually, you are guilty of drunk driving if your BAC at driving is 0.8% or more. However, this does not apply to drivers under twenty-one years. If you are an underage driver, a BAC of as low as 0.01% will attract charges for drunk driving. 

In addition to the zero-tolerance law, underage drivers could be charged with DUI for driving with a BAC of 0.0.05% or with conduct impaired by alcohol or drugs. The consequences of an Underage DUI conviction are severe and long-lasting. Therefore, you must fight the charges as soon as you face the arrest. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we have the extensive experience and knowledge required to fight your Underage DUI charges successfully. We serve clients seeking legal guidance and representation to challenge DUI charges in Sacramento, CA.

Overview of Underage DUI

DUI laws in California vary depending on the age of the driver. There are separate rules for individuals under twenty-one years whose violation will attract charges for underage DUI. Facing an arrest and criminal charges for DUI can be devastating, especially due to the uncertainty created by a conviction under these statutes.

Underage DUI is the term used to describe drunk driving charges brought against someone under twenty-one years. Although the legal age for consuming alcohol in California is twenty-one years, individuals under this age are allowed to own a license and drive a vehicle. California DUI laws are strict on everyone but more stringent on underage drivers. Two main statutes addressing underage DUI:

  • Zero Tolerance Law

Under California, VC 23136 is an offense for a juvenile driver to operate with a BACV of 0.01% or higher. This law applies to alcoholic beverages and medicines with alcohol as an element. If your preliminary alcohol screening test shows a measurable BAC, you will be charged under this statute regardless of whether your conduct was impaired.

  • Underage DUI with a BAC of 0.05% or More

In addition to the zero-tolerance law, an underage driver could face charges for driving with a BAC of 0.05%. Your BAC is tested using a PAS test at the arrest phase of underage DUI. On arrival at the station, the BAC is confirmed using the post-arrest chemical test. This could be a breath or blood test. It is essential to understand that you could face charges for both VC 23136 and 23140. However, you will only have a single DUI criminal record in this case.

Administrative Driver’s License Suspension

Like adult drivers, underage drivers have a right to a DMV hearing. The arresting officer will confiscate your license when you are cited for underage DUI in California. The officer will issue you a temporary permit to operate for the next thirty days. When the Department of Motor Vehicle learns of your arrest, they will attempt to suspend your driver’s license. You can defend yourself from this suspension type by scheduling and attending a DMV hearing.

You cannot procrastinate the need to schedule a DMV hearing; the DMV gives you only ten days to schedule the hearing. Failure to do this will result in an automatic license suspension. DMV hearings are not as formal as the DUI criminal case and can be held over the phone. At the DMV hearing, evidence will be presented against you, and you have the burden to prove that you did not drive while under the influence.

You can handle the hearing by presenting evidence relevant to the case, calling upon your witnesses, and cross-examining the witnesses presented by the prosecution. While this hearing is separate from your criminal case hearing, a positive DMV hearing outcome could steer your DUI case in the right direction. 

There are two outcomes of the DMV hearing. A win in the hearing means you will retain your driving privileges unless they are suspended following a conviction. After a loss in the DMV hearing, underage drivers face a license suspension for one year. If you face a conviction, you could suffer an additional suspension.

A license suspension affects your ability to move around and do your errands. Therefore, you need to put your best foot forward by handling all the legal issues in your case with the guidance of a DUI attorney.

Even when you do not win the DMV hearing, scheduling and attending this hearing offers several benefits, including:

Buys you more time. When you schedule a DMV hearing, you may not have a slot to appear before the DMV for several months. During this time, you can take the opportunity to investigate different aspects of your DUI and build a strong strategy to fight your license suspension.

Gather evidence for your criminal case. At a DMV hearing, the hearing officer may present all evidence against you. Most of the evidence used in a DMV hearing is similar to the one needed for your criminal case. Your attorney can use this information to attract your DUI criminal case.

Reinstating your Driver's License After Underage DUI

When your license is suspended for underage DUI, you can continue to drive using a restricted license. However, you can only drive to work, school, or other court-ordered programs with the restricted license. When the period of your license suspension ends, the driving privileges will not be reinstated automatically. You must follow these procedures to reinstate your license:

  • Pay a $100 fee
  • Filing proof of vehicle insurance by filling out form sr-22
  • Maintain your proof of financial responsibility for up to three years

Sentencing and Punishment for Underage DUI

California seeks to punish all drivers who violate DUI laws severely. The legal penalties for underage DUI vary depending on the statute you are charged. A violation of the Zero tolerance laws under VC 23136 is a civil offense. For this reason, the only penalty associated with the violation is a license suspension by the DMV. If you did not have a license ta the time of the violation, the DMV would impose a one-year delay in releasing your license.

On the other hand, a conviction under VC 23140 is punishable by:

  • Administrative driver’s license suspension for up to one year.
  • A $100 fine or more if you are a repeat offender.
  • Mandatory enrolment in a three months alcohol education program if you are over eighteen years.
  • Vehicle impoundment if you have a prior conviction under VC 23140 or 23152.

Costs Associated with Underage DUI

In addition to the legal and social consequences accompanying an underage DUI, the citation for violating PC 23140 and 23136 could take a toll on your financial life. Some of the costs you will incur during a DUI case include:

  • Court fines and lawyer fees. Even as a first-time offender, you may need to spend up to $4,000 or more on fines and attorney fees.
  • Increase in insurance costs. Underage DUI lands you two points on your driving record, and the record remains for 13 years. When your auto insurer learns of the DUI, they may increase your premiums, causing you to pay more.
  • Alcohol education program fees. The judge will order you to attend alcohol abuse education if you are eighteen or older. Most of these programs cost a minimum of $600.

Effects of Underage DUI on Credit Scores

Although a conviction under VC 23136 or 23140 could affect your chances of securing a job, it will not affect your credit score. DUI is recorded in your criminal record and shows up in background checks, not your credit record. However, a conviction for underage DUI can indirectly impact your finances. Even when you do not spend time in jail, a conviction under this statute will attract a substantial penalty. If you do not have the money to pay the court fines, you could enter into debt, which affects your credit score.

Does a DUI Charge Transfer to other States?

The Interstate Driver’s License Compact allows the Motor Vehicle Departments of different states to communicate. If you face a conviction of underage DUI in California, the conviction will follow you even when you move to another state. The home state may impose additional penalties for the conviction of California residents arrested for DUI in a different state. Additionally, a suspension or revocation of your license in California means you cannot migrate to another state.

Defense Against Underage DUI Charges

The consequences of an underage DUI conviction are severe. Fortunate, not all arrests for the offense will attract a conviction. With the guidance of a knowledgeable DUI attorney, you can fight the charges. Some of the defenses that apply to underage DUI charges include:

  • You were not Driving

You were driving a vehicle is a critical element that must be clear before a conviction for a DUI offense in California. Sometimes, police officers arrive at an accident scene and administer a breathalyzer test for all involved. In this case, their claim that you were operating the vehicle will be just speculation. If you can create a doubt in this fact, you could avoid a conviction.

  • Police Misconduct

Even when you are suspected of driving under drug or alcohol influence, you have legal rights that the police must respect throughout arrest and DUI investigation. If the police officers violate your rights, you can use the violation as a defense against the underage DUI charges. Some of the common forms of police misconduct include:

  • Lack of probable cause for a DUI arrest
  • Lack of probable cause for an arrest
  • Failure to read your Miranda rights
  • Coerced confessions

If any of these violations apply in your case, you can file a petition to exclude the evidence collected from your case.

  • Challenge the PAS Test Results

When the traffic officer stops an underage driver suspected of DUI or at a DUI checkpoint, the officer administers a preliminary alcohol screening test. The PAS works like a breathalyzer test where you blow into the device to determine the amount of alcohol in your blood.

For underage DUI, the PAS test results are the most critical evidence in the case. You can center your defense around these results by creating doubt about their accuracy. You can argue that the device used was faulty, or the test was not administered properly. Without the BAC results, the prosecutor’s case will be weak, and your chances of avoiding a conviction are high.

  • Claim that the alcohol in your Breath was Caused by something Else

Under the zero-tolerance law, any amount of alcohol detected in your breath could attract charges under California VC 23136. The 0.01% limit could be reached from mouth alcohol or a disease like diabetes. By proving that you have hypermetabolism or diabetes, your chances of escaping a conviction will be high.

  • Rising BAC Defense

Your BAC does not stop to rise when you stop consuming alcohol. Since the process of DUI investigation could take a while, your BAC could increase to surpass the legal limit. The rising BAC defense argues that while driving, your BAC was below the limit and rose during the arrest process.

Will my Underage DUI Charges Be Dismissed if the Police Officer Failed to Read my Miranda Rights?

NO. Although a violation of your rights can help in your DUI defense, it does not mean your charges will be dismissed. The police officers are obligated to read your Miranda rights only after an arrest and if they wish to interrogate you regarding the DUI. If the failure to inform you of your rights is a valid violation, the evidence collected or your statements cannot be admissible in court.

Additional DUI Laws Affecting Underage Drivers

In addition to the zero-tolerance laws and underage DUI, a driver under the age of twenty-one years could be charged under the following DUI statutes:

California VC 23152(a)

There are many instances where a driver could face an arrest for a DUI without evidence of BAC exceeding the legal limit. Under VC 23152(a), it is a serious offense to drive with conduct that is impaired by the use of alcohol. You could face charges and a conviction for DUI even with no BAC evidence if the prosecution proves the following elements:

  • You drive a vehicle
  • You were under alcohol influence

Mostly, the officers at a DUI step will be looking out for the following signs of intoxication, and the prosecutor will use them to prove your guilt under this statute:

  • Watery or bloodshot eyes
  • Alcohol odor
  • Admission of drinking 
  • Failed field sobriety test
  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteady gait
  • Swerving or reckless lane change

Driving under the influence of alcohol attracts severe penalties, including jail time, fines, probation, and driver’s license suspension.

California VC 23152(b)

California DUI laws make it unlawful to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0,08% or more. Driving with this BAC could attract charges under California Vehicle Code 23152(b), even when you are an underage driver. The elements that need to be clear before the court to secure a conviction under this statute include:

  • You were operating a vehicle
  • Your BAC at the time of the DUI stop was 0,08% or more

The blood alcohol content results are the most critical evidence in a drunk driving case. These results are obtained through a breathalyzer test taken at the DUI stop or the blood test done at the police station after the arrest.

Violation of VC 23152(b) is a misdemeanor. However, the penalties you face following a DUI conviction will vary depending on the offense and your criminal history. The penalties for DUI become more severe if you have one or more prior convictions under the statute. While California law does not allow prosecutors to charge a defendant with multiple DUI charges, this is not the case for underage drivers. You can be charged under the zero-tolerance law and still face standard DUI charges.

California VC 23152(f)

Under California VC 23152(f), it is a crime to operate a vehicle while under drug influence. You are considered DUID if you cannot drive like a sober person due to illegal substances or prescription drugs. Additionally, driving with drugs and alcohol could attract an arrest and conviction under this statute.

There is no specific legal limit for drugs to correspond to the 0.01% and 0,05% for alcohol in underage drivers. If you appear impaired at a DUI stop, you could face an arrest even when your BAC does not exceed the limit. After the arrest, you will need to take a blood test to determine the presence and concentration of drugs in your system.

Since driving under drug influence is illegal, any detectable concentration of drugs in your blood will result in charges and a possible conviction for DUID. During a prosecution under this statute, the prosecutor will rely on the quantitative analysis test results and your general conduct to prove impairment.

DUID is a misdemeanor unless you have three prior convictions or caused severe injury to a third party. A conviction, in this case, will not result in jail time. However, the court may impose a three to five years’ probation and a fine of up to $1,800. 

If there are aggravating circumstances in your case, a conviction will result in up to four years in state prison, a maximum of $5,000, or felony probation. In addition to jail time and fines, a conviction for misdemeanor and felony DUID can cause a driver’s license suspension for six months to one year. If you face charges for underage DUI accompanied by DUID, you will need the guidance of a DUI attorney.

California VC 23153

If you cause injuries to another person when driving under the influence of drugs, you could be charged with a more severe crime of DUI causing injuries. You will not spend time in jail for underage DUI in most cases. However, if you violate underage DUI laws and cause an accident, the penalties that accompany a conviction will be severe.

Before you face a conviction for DUI causing injury, the prosecution needs to prove these elements:

  • You drove a car
  • While driving, you were under drug or alcohol influence
  • You neglected to perform your legal duty of care
  • Your failure to act caused severe bodily injury to another person

DUI causing injury could be a felony or a misdemeanor when it is the first offense. As a felony, violation of VC 23153 attracts a jail sentence of up to three years. Additionally, you may be required to pay $5,000 in fines. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you risk spending a year in jail and paying a minimum of $1,000 in fines. Sometimes, the court could sentence you to probation instead of jail time. If at the time of this offense your BAC exceeded 0.2%, the court will require that you complete a drunk drivers program for not less than six months. 

Find a Competent DUI Defense Attorney Near Me

Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of catastrophic accidents on the roads in California. You are considered drunk driving when your BAC exceeds the legal limit. The state laws have different blood alcohol content limits for various drivers. There is a zero-tolerance law for underage drivers. The zero-tolerance law ensures that any driver under twenty-one caught with substantial alcohol in their blood faces serious consequences.

Receiving a DUI charge could drastically impact your life and future, especially when you are an underage driver. In addition to the possible jail time or fines, underage DUI will affect your ability to seek employment, find a good college, or join the military. If you or your loved one faces an arrest for underage DUI in Sacramento, CA, you will need the insight of a skilled DUI lawyer. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we will help you build a solid defense to fight your DUI charges and secure a favorable outcome in the case. Call us today at 916-779-3500.