CDC data for 2013 indicates that young people under the age of 21 who drink and drive increase their risk of fatal and catastrophic car accidents. In California, where some of the strictest DUI laws are implemented, the California Vehicle Code seeks to punish underage DUI and other alcohol-related offenses. When an underage driver is arrested for DUI, they may face several charges arising from violations of different sections of the Vehicle Code.
Zero Tolerance Law
California Vehicle Code Section 23136 prohibits anyone under the age of 21 to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater. The source of the alcohol is irrelevant for an underage driver to be charged under this law. The alcohol can come from the use of medication, mouthwash, or breath spray and still be subject to the zero tolerance law.
Vehicle Code section 23140 punishes as an infraction any underage person who drives with a BAC of 0.05% or greater. The penalty for underage DUI includes license suspension, a fine, and successful completion of a mandatory alcohol education program of at least 3 months.
Standard Adult DUI
Vehicle Code section 23152 punishes as a misdemeanor any driver, regardless of age, who operates a motor vehicle with a BAC of at least 0.08% or whose driving ability is actually impaired due to alcohol or drug consumption.
This provision covers two situations:
- One where a driver operates a vehicle with a BAC in excess of the legal limit; and
- Another where a person’s driving ability is impaired by alcohol or by drugs.
- Under the second situation of alcohol or drug impairment, proof of BAC of at least 0.08% is not required for conviction.
As a misdemeanor, anyone charged with violation of section 23152 may face penalties consisting of:
- License suspension
- Informal probation
- Steep fines
- Completion of an alcohol or drug education program of at least 3 months or 9 months
- Jail time of up to 6 months
Open Container Law
Depending on the circumstances of the arrest, the under age offender may be charged as well with violation of Vehicle Code Section 23224 for possession of an open or unopened container of alcohol. Certain defenses are available to an underage driver under this section. He or she may raise that:
- He was carrying a full, sealed, and unopened container with alcohol while being accompanied by a parent or a specified adult;
- He was carrying a container with alcohol as part of his job while working for someone with a valid liquor license;
- He was getting rid of the alcohol upon his parent’s instructions; or
- That he had no knowledge of the vehicle’s prohibited cargo.
Possession of alcohol by an underage offender is a misdemeanor punishable by steep fines, impounding of the vehicle for up to 30 days, and suspension of the driver’s license.
Impact of Underage DUI Conviction
Prosecution for violation of the zero tolerance law under Section 23136 is not a bar to another prosecution for violation of the standard adult DUI provision under Section 23152. Facing multiple charges arising from a single incident can lead to several penalties such as license suspension, payment of huge fines, completion of alcohol or drug education program, impounding of motor vehicle, and jail time.
DUI charges for under age drivers can also have a negative effect on their opportunities for college education and quality jobs. Anyone convicted for underage DUI and related offenses may encounter difficulties in entering college or obtaining gainful employment as they are required to report the prior conviction in college and employment applications.
Options for Youthful DUI Offenders
If you or a family member is charged with underage DUI or for violating related provisions of the California Vehicle Code, it’s important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Your DUI defense attorney can explain the legal issues in your situation, determine all DUI defenses available in your situation, and take the best course of action to protect your rights.
Serving parts of Los Angeles such as Van Nuys, San Fernando, and Beverly Hills, the law firm of Gurovich & Berk has over 35 years of combined experience in cases involving DUI underage offenders.
We work tirelessly to obtain the most beneficial results for our clients and if appropriate, our firm can get you the help you need through community service or counseling programs that are designed to keep underage offenders from the justice system while bearing responsibility for their conduct.
We invite you to call us today at (213) 385-1555 to speak to any of our friendly attorneys about your case.