California is known for its strict DUI laws and harsh prosecution of drivers who operate under drug or alcohol influence. The standard BAC legal limit for drivers in California is 0.08%. However, there is a zero-tolerance law for drivers under twenty-one years. Therefore, if you drive with a BAC of 0.01%, you could face arrest and criminal charges under California Vehicle Code 23156. Additionally, minors who operate with a BAC of 0.08% or higher could be charged with standard DUI.
A conviction for DUI for young drivers attracts serious legal consequences. In addition to jail time, fines, and license suspension, the conviction has long-lasting implications on your life. If you or your loved one faces underage DUI charges, it is crucial to enlist and retain the services of a skilled DUI attorney. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we will help you understand your chargers and guide you through the process of building a solid defense to fight the charges. We serve clients requiring legal guidance and representation to battle DUI charges in Pasadena, CA.
Overview of Underage DUI in California
Traffic accidents are a significant cause of death among teenagers and young adults. There are many causes of these accidents, with some of the most common ones being distracted driving and underage drinking and driving. For this reason, the state of California has imposed strict laws on drinking and driving for individuals under twenty-one years. There are several DUI laws under which an underage driver can be charged, including:
1. Zero Tolerance Law
Under California VC 23136, it is a civil offense for a person under twenty-one to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or higher. Often the zero-tolerance law applies to all beverages that could raise your BAC to 0.01% or higher.
Under this statute, the BAC is measured using the preliminary alcohol screening test. This test is performed using a Breathalyzer, and when you blow into it, it converts the alcohol in your breath into a BAC equivalent. Under California DUI law, all underage drivers must submit to the PAS test, which helps officers detect impairment. In most cases, traffic officers will rely on your driving conduct to formulate a probable cause for a DUI stop.
Violation of California VC 23136 is not treated as a criminal offense. The penalties for this violation include a driver’s license suspension for up to one year. If you are a repeat offender and have a DUI-related conviction on your record, your license suspension may be increased to two or even three years.
2. Underage driver with a BAC of 0.05% or Higher
California VC 23140 makes it a crime for underage drivers to operate with a BAC of 0.05% or higher. If the driver stops an underage driver and fails a field sobriety test, a Breathalyzer test will be administered to determine the amount of alcohol in their breath. After an arrest and arrival at the police station, you must take a compulsory blood test under the implied consent law. While you have a choice between the breath and the blood tests, there are times when the law enforcement mandates that you undergo a blood test, including:
There is reasonable suspicion that you were intoxicated with alcohol and other drugs.
- You are unconscious.
- You are at a health facility where the Breathalyzer is not available.
- You are too intoxicated to blow into the Breathalyzer.
While a violation of VC 23140 may not result in jail time, you could face the following legal consequences:
- A one-year driver’s license suspension for the first offense or more for repeat offenders.
- Fines of up to $250.
- The requirement to attend an alcohol education program if you are eighteen years or older.
3. Actual Impairment
There are situations where underage drivers face standard DUI charges under CVC 23152. As an underage driver, you could face standard DUI charges if your BAC were 0.08% or higher at the DUI stop. A conviction for a first offense adult DUI is punishable by:
- A one-year license suspension.
- Fines of up to $1,000.
- A three to nine months alcohol education program.
- A jail sentence of up to six months.
Misdemeanor Probation for Standard DUI
For DUI convictions, probation is an alternative to the six-month jail sentence. In this case, probation will last between three to five years. However, not all DUI offenders are eligible for probation. Often, the prosecution offers probation for first-time offenders whose DUI offense does not have aggravating factors. While on probation for DUI, the court will require you to undergo random alcohol and drug tests and pay your fines.
If you face standard DUI charges as an underage driver, it is crucial to contact a skilled DUI defense attorney.
DMV Hearing for Underage DUI
Driver’s license suspension is one of the most life-changing consequences of a drunk driving conviction under California law. While you battle charges for underage DUI, you risk facing two driver’s license suspension forms. The court-triggered suspension occurs when you are found guilty of underage DUI. On the other hand, the DMV suspension is triggered as soon as the prosecution files DUI charges against you.
Following an arrest for DUI, you will have up to ten days to schedule a DMV hearing where you can defend the suspension of your license. The DMV hearing is separate from your criminal case, and the setting is less formal. At the DMV hearing, you have a right to:
- Present defenses and witnesses, including the arresting officer.
- Review the evidence provided against you and chalk it.
- Testify on your behalf.
- Cross-examine the witnesses presented by the prosecution.
If you win the DMV hearing, the Department of Motor Vehicle sets aside the suspension, and you can continue to drive as you await the outcome of your criminal case. Although the court case and the DMV hearing are different, a win in the DMV hearing would shed a positive light on your DUI criminal case.
If you lose the hearing, your license will be suspended automatically. However, all hope is not lost for you. You can appeal the DMV officer’s decision by writing a request within fifteen days and paying a $120 fee. Additionally, you can request a restricted license.
An underage driver who suffers a license suspension after losing a DMV hearing may be eligible for the restricted license. A restricted driver’s license is a special license that only allows the driver to drive to specific places like work or school. However, it is essential to understand that if you lose your license for failure to submit to the chemical tests, this type of license will not be available for you.
What Happens When an Underage Driver Fails to Submit to the Chemical Tests During a DUI Arrest?
Having a valid driver’s license in California means taking breath and blood tests following an arrest for drunk driving. The post-arrest chemical test is known as an evidentiary test, and it must be taken by everyone, even drivers who have undergone the PAS and Breathalyzer tests.
Refusal to take a PAS test and the post-arrest test may result in a mandatory driver’s license suspension for one year. If you have a prior conviction for chemical test refusal, DUI, or wet recklessness, your license could be revoked for two years or more. In addition to the license suspension, refusal to take the chemical tests could result in forty-eight hours in jail if your jail time is part of your sentence.
Additional Consequences of an Underage DUI in California
The adverse effects of an underage DUI go beyond the fines, license suspension, and probation. The following consequences of an underage DUI will affect your life long after you have completed the legal penalties:
Impact on Insurance
Once you face a DUI conviction, the court will notify both the DMV and your vehicle insurance. After discovering your conviction, your auto insurance provider will consider you a high-risk driver and thus increase your premiums. Alternatively, your insurer could terminate your policy, and you may need to go around looking for another provider.
Difficulty Securing Employment
A DUI criminal conviction is a public record in California. You must disclose the underage DUI conviction under the criminal history section during job applications. Such a conviction does not look good on your character, and many young adults find it challenging to secure meaningful employment for this reason. If you fail to declare your conviction and your employer finds out through the background check, they have a right to terminate employment.
Adverse Effects on your College Application
When you apply for college, you are expected to list all your convictions, including underage DUI. In most cases, DUI is viewed as reckless behavior, and it may be a basis for denying you admission to the college of your choice. Even when accepted to college, you could be denied scholarships or other financial assistance.
In addition to denying you acceptance to college, you may not be able to pursue particular degrees with a conviction such as DUI on your record. Failure to disclose your DUI conviction in a college application, the school you want to join, could dismiss you.
Legal Defense against Underage DUI Charges
The consequences of a DUI conviction are very severe. However, it is possible to beat the charges even when you are underage. A skilled DUI attorney will be able to Throughout different explanations for your conduct or even attack the evidence presented against you. Most approaches to the defense for underage DUI are dismissing the charges, reducing your penalties, or securing plea deals for lesser offenses. The following are some legal defenses against underage DUI charges in California:
You were not Driving
The first element that the prosecution must prove when establishing your guilt for driving under the influence of alcohol is that you were driving. You are not liable for the crime of DUI if the evidence to prove your driving is insufficient. Under California DUI laws, driving a vehicle means that you moved the car of your volition. The exact distance that you moved the car, in this case, is not necessary. If the prosecution cannot prove that you drove the vehicle, you cannot be convicted of underage DUI.
You had a Rising BAC
The defense on rising BAC is based on the fact that the blood alcohol content of a person continues to rise long after they stop drink8ng. Rising BAC is a valid legal defense against DUI charges since your body may take a while to metabolize the alcohol. Your attorney can argue that there was no detectable alcohol in your blood while you were driving, or the BAC was much lower, and it rose during the lengthy process of the DUI investigation.
Lack of Probable Cause for a DUI Arrest
In California, police officers must have a probable cause or reasonable suspicion of drunk driving to warrant a traffic stop. An officer cannot simply pull you over and begin a DUI investigation. Instead, they must have specific facts that led them to believe that you were committing a crime such as drunk driving. However, it is essential to understand that the issue of probable cause is not applicable at sobriety checkpoints.
Even after stopping your vehicle and carrying out a DUI investigation, there must be probable cause for an arrest. Some of the facts that constitute a probable cause for an underage DUI arrest in California include:
- ABAC of 0.01% or higher on the PAS test.
- Physical signs of intoxication.
- Poor performance in the field sobriety test.
If you can prove that the traffic officers did not have probable cause to stop your vehicle or arrest you for drunk driving, you will have a chance to fight your underage DUI charges.
Challenge the Accuracy of the Chemical Test Results
The PAS test and blood tests are significant pieces of evidence in underage DUI charges. Therefore, if you can dispute the accuracy of these results, your chances of avoiding a conviction under VC 23136 or 23140 may be higher. It is common for DUI breath tests to be inaccurate, resulting in false BAC and DUI charges.
A skilled DUI attorney can help you challenge the breath test results using the provisions under California Code of Regulations Title 17. This section of California law sets forth the rules that the traffic officers must follow when carrying out DUI breath tests and processing the samples. If the correct procedures are not followed, the test results could be deemed false and unreliable for use to prosecute DUI charges.
Some requirements of breath test testing for underage DUI include:
- The Breathalyzer equipment used for the test must be in good working condition and must be calibrated every ten days or after testing 150 drivers.
- The individuals administering the breath test must have undergone the correct training to carry out the procedure.
- Before moving to the breath test, the traffic officer must conduct a fifteen-minute field sobriety test.
- The testing expert should detect the deep alveolar air from your lungs. This helps avoid detecting alcohol content from foods or other sources.
Your lawyer can file a motion to exclude inaccurate test results from a DUI case. If the jury accepts this motion, your charges could be dismissed, or your attorney can bargain a plea deal for a lesser offense like reckless driving.
Offer Alternative Explanation for the High Blood Alcohol Content
Residual alcohol from the mouth is a commonly used DUI defense in California. It is not unusual for the Breathalyzer device to pick up traces of alcohol that remain in the mouth from chewing tobacco, consuming certain foods, and medical conditions like diabetes. Mouth alcohol does not equal the alcohol content in the blood. Therefore, you can defend against your underage DUI charges by arguing that the high BAC was from something else other than the consumption of alcohol.
Offenses Related to Underage DUI in California
In addition to zero tolerance or underage DUI convictions, an underage driver could face the following DUI related charges depending on the circumstances surrounding your DUI:
Underage Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle
California VC 23224 makes it a crime for someone under twenty-one years to possess alcohol while driving a vehicle. However, this statute has some exceptions. You will not be guilty of underage possession of alcohol in a car if:
- You are accompanied by a responsible adult or parent in the vehicle.
- You intended to dispose of the alcohol with instructions from a parent or adult.
- You are employed to carry the alcohol and were doing so at the time of the arrest.
If you face an arrest for underage drinking and driving and the arresting officer finds alcohol in the vehicle, you could be charged with both underage DUI and possession of alcohol in a car. A violation of California Vehicle Code 23224 is a misdemeanor whose conviction attracts a one-year jail sentence and fines not exceeding $1,000.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
You commit the crime under this statute when you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs and engage in other negligent behavior that causes death to another person. Before you face a conviction under this statute, the prosecutor must establish the following elements:
- You operated a vehicle while under drug or alcohol influence. For underage drivers, you are considered intoxicated if your BAC was 0.01% or 0.05% at the arrest.
- While DUI, you committed an infraction or misdemeanor which is risky to human life
- You acted with ordinary negligence, and the negligence caused death to a third individual.
Violation of CPC 191.5(b) is treated as a wobbler. The offense can be treated as a misdemeanor or felony based on the case’s specific factors and your criminal history. As a misdemeanor, this offense attracts a jail sentence not exceeding one year and a minimum of $1,000 in fines.
On the other hand, a felony conviction under this statute attracts a maximum prison sentence of four years or up to $10,000 in fines.
Watson murder is a second-degree murder charged when a defendant with a prior DUI conviction causes a fatality while driving under alcohol or drugs. The prosecution can charge you with underage DUI and DUI murder in California. A conviction for DUI murder requires the prosecution to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You were involved in an intentional act that caused another person’s death, and in this case, the act is drunk driving.
- The consequence of your actions was dangerous to human life.
- You acted with conscious disregard for the safety of other people.
An intention to kill the person is not necessary when securing a conviction for DUI murder. DUI murder is a straight felony whose conviction attracts fifteen years to life in prison and $10,000 in fines. Additionally, DUI murder is a strike under California Three Strikes Law.
Find a Skilled Pasadena Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Under California VC 23136, it is unlawful for drivers under twenty-one years to operate a vehicle with a detectable amount of alcohol in the blood. In addition to the zero-tolerance law, underage drivers can be charged with standard DUI for driving with a BAC that exceeds the standard legal limit of 0.08%. A conviction for underage DUI attracts severe legal penalties.
Under the criminal history section, an underage DUI must be reported during job and college applications. It is common for employers to discriminate against you based on your conviction. For this reason, it is essential to begin the process of fighting the charges as soon as you face the arrest. Fortunately, not all underage DUI arrests will attract a conviction. With the guidance of a skilled attorney, you can find explanations for your behavior or even challenge the accuracy of the evidence provided against you to ensure the best outcome for your case.
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we understand what is at stake if you face a conviction for underage drunk driving, and we offer the guidance you need to avoid a conviction. If you are battling underage DUI charges in Pasadena, CA, we invite you to contact us today at 626-689-2277.