Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm has a team of highly experienced attorneys who are dedicated to serving clients within the Vista area. The attorneys have an in-depth knowledge of the California laws putting them in a better position to handle all manner of Underage and juvenile DUI cases, and this can be attested by the number of cases they have represented in and around Vista area and beyond.   

What Happens if One Gets a DUI Under 21 in California?

The state of California has adopted strict laws against drunk driving of persons under the age of 21 years also commonly known as juvenile drivers. Essentially, if the blood alcohol content (BAC) of a Juvenile driver is above the 0.08% legal limit, they could face similar charges that apply to drivers of over 21 years, commonly known as standard DUI. Secondly, a juvenile driver could face exceptional charges and be penalized for driving with any detectable blood alcohol content even if it is below the legal limit in the state, which stand at 0.08%. In the state of California, a juvenile driver under the influence of alcohol could face different charges, which could either lead to suspension of their driver’s license or could have their license delayed, typically for a year if they drive with BAC of 0.01% under the zero-tolerance law. Besides, in California underage drivers may also be arrested and face charges of underage DUI for having BAC of 0.05% or more. All underage and juveniles may contest the suspension of their licenses in a hearing on California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) just like any other driver who is above 21 years. It is advisable for the juvenile drivers to reserve the right of hearing within a span of 10 days following the arrest under DUI. 

Zero Tolerance DUI Law BAC 0.01%

The Vehicle Code 23146 is a law which was enacted in 1994 by the legislature of California to deal with the rampant underage drunk driving. The law is commonly known as the Zero tolerance DUI law, and it makes unlawful for persons under the age of 21 to drive a motor vehicle while having a BAC of 0.01% or more after taking an alcoholic beverage. It is important to note that any small amount of alcohol taken could instantly raise the BAC to 0.01%. Under this law, alcoholic beverage means alcohol from whatever source and not necessarily alcoholic drinks. Some of the common sources of alcohol include cough syrups, homeopathic medicines, cold formulas like the Nyquil, and topical numbing ointments among many others. Violation of this law is an infraction and not a crime, which is a low-level offense similar to a parking ticket. A conviction would result in revocation or suspending of the license, which is commonly referred to as administrative per se (APS) by the DMV.

On the other hand, if the driver did not have a license at the time of arrest, then the law would delay the time of acquiring one for a year. An underage in violation of VC 23136, would prompt the arresting officer to take away the license of the driver, if they have one, and send it to the DMV, and a temporary license issued on the spot. The temporary license would be valid for only 30 days. After the elapse of the 30 days, the revocation or the suspension of the license takes effect, unless the offender requests a hearing by DMV within ten days to contest the revocation or suspension. One can also request a hearing if the suspension of the license was a result of refusing to take chemical or Preliminary Alcohol Test (PAS) test.

Underage DUI Law BAC 0.05%

Vehicle code 23140 in California is the law which makes it an offense for persons below the age of 21 to drive motor vehicles while having BAC of 0.05% or more. If one is arrested for violation of VC 23140, their BAC has to be confirmed by post-arrest DUI chemical test, which could either be a blood test or another machine at the police station such as a breathalyzer. Violation of VC 23140 is also an infraction and not a crime and may not result in a jail term. After the arrest one may refuse to take a post-arrest test. However, all drivers in California, notwithstanding their age, are deemed to consent to post-arrest tests when they are lawfully arrested. Refusing to take the chemical test for DUI following a lawful arrest would lead to automatic suspension of the driver’s license for one year.

Standard DUI Law BAC 0.08%

Under Vehicle Code 23152, anyone regardless of their age could be charged with the law. Under the law, it is unlawful for anyone of whatever age to drive a vehicle when they are under the influence of alcoholic beverage. According to this law, any person under the influence refers to anyone whose mental and physical abilities are impaired to the extent that they cannot drive a motor vehicle while exercising caution expected of a sober person. The law also prohibits and makes it unlawful for anyone with a BAC level of 0.08% or higher in their body systems. This implies that it is still unlawful for anyone to drive even if their ability to drive has not been affected by the level of intoxication; the only threshold required is the BAC level is above 0.08% or more. In California, violation of VC 23152 is a misdemeanor and therefore carries criminal penalties. An underage or Juvenile would be charged under this law just like an adult.

What is the Penalty for a First DUI Offense by a Minor?

Vehicle Code 23140 is the law in California that prohibits anyone below the age of 21 to drive with alcohol content (BAC) in their body system of 0.05% or more, which is only an infraction and will not lead to receiving a jail term. However, there are two possibilities for the first time offenders

  1. It could lead to DMV suspending of the driver’s license for one year.
  2. One could be fined $100.
  3. If the offender is 18 years or above, they could be placed on a mandatory education on alcohol and /or drug program for three months or more.

Juvenile drivers below the age of 21 in the state of California who drive having blood alcohol content (BAC) in their body system of  0.08% or above as first-time offenders could face standard charges like adults facing DUI charges as stipulated on VC 23152, which is a misdemeanor and the penalties are as follows:

  1. Suspension of the driver’s license
  2. Between three and five years of probation
  3. A fine of between $390 and $1000
  4. Between three and nine months of drug or alcohol education program
  5. A jail term in a county jail not exceeding six month

Other Related Charges

In California’s laws under Vehicle Code 23224, it prohibits underage people or anyone below the age of 21 to carry alcohol inside the vehicle while they are driving. However, there are some few exceptions

  • If the container having alcohol is sealed, full, and they have not been opened
  • If the underage are in the company another specified adult or the parent
  • If they are transporting the alcohol to get rid of them because a specified adult or the parent have instructed them
  • If they are carrying them because it is part of their job for a legitimate store with a license

Often, Vehicle Code 23224 and Vehicle Code 23140 are charged together for the underage DUI. Violation of VC 23224 is often a misdemeanor, and the penalties for such violation may include impounding the vehicle for a period lasting up to 30 days, and they could also get a fine of up to $1000 or receive a suspension of their driver's license for 12 months.

Vehicle Code 23222 (b) prohibits a minor from driving a car with marijuana inside the car. Under the law in California, it makes it unlawful for a minor to drive while in possession of any kind of marijuana which is not in a container or a container having its seal broken. The law is known as open container law. Violation of this law is often an infraction, and its penalty is a fine not exceeding $100.

Vehicle code 23221 prohibits underage persons from driving while drinking or ingesting/smoking marijuana, and the violation of this law is also an infraction.  Any passenger inside a moving motor vehicle and engages in drinking alcohol or using marijuana could be charged for violating this law. First-time offenders of using marijuana or drinking in a vehicle could be punished with a fine not exceeding $100.

The Proof Needed for a Conviction

The prosecutors of DUI charges in California are expected to prove beyond doubt that the defendant was driving a vehicle and that they were under the influence of alcohol at the time they were driving. Under the laws of California, under the influence means that the accused had impairment of their mental and physical abilities to the extent that they were unable to exercise reasonable caution expected of a sober person. Although the way in which an individual drive is always not enough to establish and prove that one was under the influence, it is a factor considered in determining if one was impaired while driving. Therefore, for one to be convicted, the prosecutors have to prove beyond doubt that the defendant was driving a vehicle and they had BAC level that is above what is stated in different laws. Typically, the prosecution presents the breath and chemical blood test to prove that the offender was under the influence. If the test results show that the BAC was indeed above the limit, the court will conclude that the defendant was driving while under the influence and they will be sentenced.   

DMV Administrative Hearing “Per Se”

The state of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has broad powers to revoke and suspend the privileges of driving for anyone in the state of California, whenever there is a reason to do so. Therefore, whenever an individual is arrested on DUI offense, they are given ten days to request the state’s DMV hearing to have a temporary stay regarding suspension of their driving license immediately after the arrest for violation of VC 23136 or after refusing to take the chemical test. If the offender fails to request a hearing, the DMV will proceed to suspend the driver’s license. It is important to note that the attorney could represent the offender in the hearing and can handle the whole process on behalf of the driver.

After the hearing, the driver could win, and under such circumstances, the suspension or revoking will be canceled. On the other hand, if the driver lost the case, they could request for a restricted license under critical use, unless the suspension was as a result of refusing to take the chemical test. An underage who lost the case at the hearing at DMV in California could get the restricted license. This type of license is more like a learners permit and allows the minor to drive to and from school or work and/or DUI School in California if there are no other means of transport available for them. The license cannot be given if the underage offender had refused to take the chemical test. 

Acquiring a Restricted License

Ordinarily, one is required to fill-up an SR22 form with the DMV as a process of acquiring a restricted license or even to have the license reinstated after the suspension term has ended. One might be expected to retain the SR22 form with the DMV in California for a period of up to 3 years from the time when the license is reinstated. Different factors will determine how soon one can get the restricted license. If the court triggered the suspension, then one can get the restricted license right away, but if the suspension were through administrative suspension, then one would have to wait for 30 days from the day when the license was suspended. However, if one received both suspensions, they would still be required to wait for one month from the day when they received the administrative suspension. If the individual has been arrested for the first DUI offense in California and did not decline to take the chemical test, then they have the option of applying for a restricted license after the lapse of 30 days. However, if the offender was arrested for the first time on DUI offense in California, but they had refused to take the blood or chemical test, then they will face harsh punishment. Typically they will face a 1-year revocation of the license without any chance of obtaining a restricted license anytime within 12 months. Once the suspension is over one is expected to file an SR22 form to have their license back once again.

Common Defense Against Underage DUI

There are numerous legal defenses regarding the laws of California on driving under the influence. It is important to note that driving badly does not necessarily equate to DUI and therefore one can argue that they were driving poorly or erratically but not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This argument is helpful particularly on charges that one was driving while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs based on vehicle code 23152. Typically, prosecutors would always focus on the driving patterns, and usually, they have the arresting officer to testify that the driving behavior of the defendant was consistent with a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Therefore, the often referred pattern of driving includes claims that the defendant was weaving within the lane or they were speeding. A DUI attorney with experience can rebut such evidence. The attorney could tell the officer to give a testimony on all possible ways that one can drive properly and safely and therefore bring out from the testifying officer the confirmation that;

  1. Most sober people commit the majority of the traffic offenses and that,
  2. The driving pattern as alluded is not necessarily a reliable predictor of DUI,

In fact, according to NHTSA, which is the country's an authority on DUI, has pointed out that cues derived from driving patterns can only predict DUI 35% of the time. Besides, the association of national district attorneys has also admitted that driving behavior is sometimes highly nuanced.

Another approach of defense includes challenging prosecutor’s use of symptoms of intoxication to argue that the defendant was under the influence. The physical appearance of an individual plays a significant role in the investigation under California DUI. The officer arresting the defendant for DUI has to testify that the defendant was under the influence possibly because of appearances like watery eyes, alcohol odor, unsteady gait, and slurred speech among other such attributes. However, these symptoms and signs could be argued out based on explanations of innocence that may lead to symptoms such as fatigue, cold, eye irritation, and allergies.  A seasoned DUI attorney can also argue that alcohol does not have an odor and what people assume as alcohol from the breath could be a scent from other items found in non-alcoholic beverages and alcoholic drinks such as hops and malt in beer.

Thirdly, if the defendant’s arrest included results from Field Sobriety Test (FSTs), the defendant and his attorney could also challenge the results as part of the defense strategy. 

Find a Vista DUI Attorney Near Me

If you are facing any of these DUI cases, then you would need services of renowned and highly experienced attorneys of a law firm such as Vista DUI Attorney. Our firm has seasoned attorneys who can successfully prepare a defense against your case to ensure a successful outcome in your favor. Call us today on 760-691-1540 and talk to one of our skilled attorney with unmatched expertise in DUI cases.