Driving while intoxicated can harm drivers and other road users. To prevent and deter DUI driving, California has stringent regulations. You face charges of underage DUI if you are under 21 and caught operating a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level higher than 0.01%. Underage DUI has severe and long-lasting consequences, like extensive jail terms, probation, and license suspension. So, as soon as you face the charges, you should obtain legal counsel.
At Desert Defense Lawyers, we have the experience and expertise to contest DUI charges. We are prepared to examine your case and work with you to build a solid defense to fight the allegations. Contact our knowledgeable DUI attorneys if you need to fight underage DUI charges in Palm Desert.
Understanding California Underage DUI Laws
California DUI rules change depending on the age of the driver. Drivers under the age of 21 must adhere to different rules. It can be terrible to be found guilty of DUI, especially if you are underage. Underage DUI refers to intoxicated driving by someone under the age of 21. Although those under 21 are not legally allowed to consume alcohol, they can possess a driver's license and operate a vehicle.
California has strict DUI rules, particularly harsh for those under 21. So, if you are facing a DUI conviction while underage in the state, you need to obtain legal counsel from a DUI attorney with plenty of experience. The attorney will assist with your defense.
When an underage driver operates a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, they violate the following laws:
Zero Tolerance DUI Law (VC 23136)
The zero-tolerance law makes it illegal for anyone under 21 to drive a vehicle with a BAC level above 0.01%. The law also applies to medicines and alcoholic beverages with alcohol as an ingredient. Common sources of alcohol include homeopathic medicines and cough syrups.
A violation of the statute includes a driver's license suspension for up to 12 months. If you are a repeat DUI offender, the court can suspend your license for 24 or 36 months. If you did not have a driver's license during your arrest, your time to obtain one could be delayed for 12 months.
Underage DUI With a BAC Above 0.05% (VC 23140)
Under this statute, an underage person operating a vehicle with a BAC level above 0.05% is guilty of a criminal offense. If law enforcement officers stop you and you fail a field sobriety test, they issue a breathalyzer test to determine the alcohol concentration in your breath.
After arriving at the police station, the law requires you to take a mandatory blood test per the implied consent law. It is your choice whether to undergo a blood or breath test. Sometimes the law enforcement officer will mandate that you undergo the blood test. For example, the police can order you to undergo a blood test when:
- You are too intoxicated to perform the breathalyzer test.
- When the breathalyzer test is unavailable at the police station.
- When you are unconscious.
Standard DUI Laws (VC 23152 a and b)
According to VC 23152, any person in California, regardless of their age, can face charges under the law. According to the statute, it is a criminal offense for any person to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. A person under the influence is anyone with impaired physical and mental abilities, so they cannot operate a vehicle with the expected caution.
The statute also prohibits anyone from driving a vehicle with a BAC level above 0.08%. It implies that even when your level of intoxication does not impact your driving ability, it is still illegal to operate a vehicle. Violating the statute attracts misdemeanor charges.
Additional Penalties for Underage DUI in California
Beyond license suspension, alcohol education, probation, and hefty fines, underage DUI has severe repercussions. Other possible repercussions following a youth DUI conviction include the following:
The court will impose excessive auto insurance charges if you are found guilty of an underage DUI in California. The court notifies the DMV and auto insurance companies when you are charged with DUI.
Once your conviction is known to your vehicle insurance company, they will view you as a high-risk driver. Also, your insurer may decide to end your coverage. It implies that you will go around looking for another insurance company.
Problems Finding a New Job
A DUI conviction in California is public information. When you seek a new job, your conviction for Underage DUI will appear on your criminal record. The conviction reflects poorly on your criminal history, and it can be difficult to secure better employment. Your employer can fire you if you fail to disclose it, but they find out about the conviction through a background check.
Your College Applications Impact
The law requires you to disclose every past criminal conviction when applying for college, including those convictions when you were underage. In many situations, the law views a DUI conviction as risky, and the college has the legal authority to refuse your application.
Even if you are admitted to the college, financial aid and scholarships may still be withheld from you. A DUI conviction may prevent you from enrolling in college and may also prevent you from enrolling in certain courses.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove
The law in California requires prosecutors in DUI cases to prove several elements before you face conviction. For example, the prosecutor must prove you were operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol at the time of your arrest. Being under the influence means you have impaired physical and mental abilities to exercise caution. Again, the prosecutor must prove you are under 21 years old.
How you operate your vehicle alone is insufficient evidence to show you were under the influence of alcohol. So, to face conviction, the prosecution team must show you were operating a vehicle and had a BAC level above the legal limit. The prosecution team often provides blood tests and chemical results to show and affirm that you were operating under the influence of alcohol.
What Happens If You Refuse to Submit to a Blood or Chemical Test During Your Arrest?
In California, having a driver's license requires you to submit to blood and breath testing immediately after the police arrest you for suspicious DUI driving. It should be noted that the post-arrest chemical test is an evidentiary test that every driver is required by law to submit to.
Refusal to take the PAS and post-arrest tests results in a mandatory license suspension of up to 12 months. The court may revoke your license for 24 months if you have a prior DUI, wet DUI, or refusal to submit to the test conviction.
After Facing an Underage DUI Conviction, How Can You Reinstate Your Driver's License?
When the DMV suspends your license for an Underage DUI conviction, you can operate your vehicle using a restricted license. You can only drive to school, work, and court-ordered programs with a restricted driver's license. After your license suspension ends, the court does not automatically reinstate your license. The law requires you to do the following:
- Paying a reinstatement fee.
- Filling out evidence of vehicle insurance using Form SR-22.
- Maintaining evidence of financial responsibility for up to 36 months.
DMV Hearing for Underage DUI
In California, suspending your driver's license is one of the most life-changing consequences. Apart from battling DUI charges, you also risk license suspension. Your license will be suspended if the court finds you guilty of committing an underage DUI.
Alternatively, the DMV suspends your license immediately after the prosecutor files the DUI charges. After the DUI arrest, you have ten days to plan a DMV Hearing. During the DMV Hearing, you can defend your license suspension. You have the following rights during the DMV Hearing:
- Present witness defenses.
- Review the evidence issued against you.
- Cross-examine the eyewitness.
- Testify on your behalf.
When you win the DMV Hearing, the DMV sets aside your license suspension. So, you can keep operating your vehicle as you await the outcome of your case. Although the DMV Hearing and the court case are different, a win at the hearing sheds a positive light on your criminal case.
When you lose your DMV Hearing, the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license automatically. When the court suspends your license, keep hoping. You can appeal the DMV's decision within fifteen days.
If you are Underage and lose your license after the DMV Hearing, you can still qualify for a restricted license. The restricted license will allow you to travel to certain places, like schools and workstations.
How You Can Acquire a Restricted License
The law requires you to fill out SR-22 forms with the Department of Motor Vehicles as you apply for the restricted license or if you want to reinstate the license. The law might require you to retain the SR-22 forms for 36 months. Many factors determine how soon you will obtain the restricted license. If the court suspends the license, you can obtain the restricted license immediately.
When your license was suspended under administrative suspension, you would wait a month from the day of suspension. Alternatively, if you receive both suspensions, you will wait a month after receiving the administrative suspension.
Legal Strategies for California Underage DUI Charges
A conviction for underage DUI carries serious potential consequences. You might not be found guilty even if you are accused of committing the crime. When you collaborate closely with an experienced DUI attorney, you can fight the charges. The common defenses that your criminal defense lawyer can employ to refute the allegations include:
You Were not Operating or Driving a Vehicle
Driving a vehicle is a key element the prosecutor must prove before you face conviction for committing a DUI offense. Sometimes, law enforcement officers arrive at the accident scene and perform a breathalyzer on the involved parties. Being involved in the accident does not necessarily mean you were the person driving the vehicle. This defense can best work if you create reasonable doubt in this case.
When the law enforcement officer suspects you are operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, remember you have your rights, which the law enforcement officer should respect during their investigations and arrests. The following are examples of common police Misconduct the police can commit during your arrest:
- Coerced confession.
- Lack of probable cause for your arrest.
- Lack of probable cause for DUI arrest.
- Failure to read Miranda rights.
If you have any of these violations in your case, with the help of your attorney, you can file a petition to exclude the evidence gathered against you.
The defense against rising BAC depends on your BAC level continuing to rise even after you stop drinking. So, a rising BAC is a possible defense because your body may take some time to metabolize the alcohol. Your DUI attorney can claim that you had a much lower BAC level during your arrest, and it rose while the police were conducting their investigations.
Challenging Credibility and Accuracy of the Chemical Test Results
Blood tests are essential evidence in Underage DUI cases. If you are in a good position to dispute the accuracy of the test results, you can avoid facing a conviction under VC 23140 or 23136. Sometimes the DUI test can be inaccurate and result in false DUI charges. With the help of a competent DUI attorney, you can challenge the breath test results.
If the police officers do not use the correct procedure when performing the DUI tests, the results could be unreliable. You can file a petition to exclude the inaccurate DUI test results from your case. Once the court grants your petition, it could dismiss or reduce the charges.
You are not Underage
If you have documents that show you are over 21 years old, you can use this defense to fight the charges. Note that you will evade the citation for breaking the zero-tolerance law but will face a conviction as an adult driver.
Other DUI-Related Crimes Charged Alongside Underage DUI in California
The court may even prosecute you for other crimes besides underage DUI. Several components of the crime are shared in these crimes. In California, the following charges are frequently charged alongside underage DUI:
Watson Murder, PC 187
The most serious DUI charge you may receive in California is Watson's Murder. When your drunk driving case results in more than one death, it is called a Watson Murder. A Watson advisement is a legal declaration you sign after being threatened with a DUI conviction. You consent to the harm drunk driving can do to you and other road users.
Before the court can find you guilty, the prosecution must establish all the necessary elements of the offense. For example, the prosecution must show that you caused a fatal accident.
The offense carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence. You also obtain a strike, which means the more you repeat the offense in the future, the harsher your penalty will be. Even if you answer the accusations, you might not be found guilty. You can still contest the accusations with the assistance of a skilled criminal defense lawyer.
Underage Possession of Alcohol in a Car (VC 23224)
You could be charged with breaking VC 23224 if you are underage and have alcohol in a moving vehicle. The legal presumption is that if you possess alcohol while under 21, you are drinking it.
The alcohol in the container must be sealed and filled to demonstrate that you are not drinking it. Also, it would help if you were with an adult, your parent, or had a license for alcohol possession.
Alcohol possession by minors in California is a misdemeanor offense.
One month's worth of vehicle impoundment is one of the punishments. Your license could also be suspended for up to 12 months. You must hire skilled DUI attorneys if you want to fight these consequences.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Under the Influence of Alcohol (PC 191.5 a)
You commit the crime when you operate a vehicle while intoxicated and engage in careless behavior that results in another person's death. The prosecution team must establish the following before the defendant faces conviction for the crime:
- You were using alcohol or drugs while operating a vehicle.
- Another individual passed away as a result of your carelessness.
- You engaged in a misdemeanor that puts people's lives in danger while intoxicated.
California law views the offense as a wobbler. Therefore, the prosecution may choose to pursue felony or misdemeanor charges. A misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum 12-month prison sentence. As an alternative, a felony conviction carries a maximum 48-month jail sentence.
Contact a DUI Attorney Near Me
Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents in California. When charged with underage DUI, the consequences can significantly impact your future. So, if you or a loved one is in danger of obtaining a DUI conviction while underage, you must seek legal counsel immediately.
At Desert Defense Lawyers, we are prepared to assist you in developing strong defenses and defending your rights. Also, we are devoted to ensuring your case has the finest results possible. We are here for you in Palm Desert if you need our help. Call us at 888-293-0396 today, and we will work on your case immediately.