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California DUI Charges For Minors Under 21 Years-Old

Los Angeles DUI attorneyCalifornia DUI penalties are harsh – and if you’re under 21 years of age when arrested, you’ve got a recipe for disaster. An experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney can help you prepare for all possible outcomes if you’ve been arrested as a minor* in Los Angeles County. The following information can serve as a guide to California DUI charges for minors although actual cases and circumstances may vary.

First, it’s important to understand there is a “zero tolerance” policy for minors who drink and drive in the state of California. What this means is that if test results reveal a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.01% or higher, you will be charged with DUI or related charges. This does not mean “one drink” (or even half of one for that matter) but any detectable alcohol in the blood. The term “legal limit of 0.08%” means nothing in such cases. Minors convicted of DUI in California will face a mandatory one-year license suspension with a high likelihood of fines, alcohol counseling classes, possible jail time and probation.

Related: How to Expunge a California DUI from Your Record

Additionally, underage drivers can face three or more separate charges per one drunk driving arrest. How does this work? Let’s examine the following Vehicle Codes further:

  • Underage driving with a BAC of 0.01% or greater
  • Underage driving with a BAC of 0.05% or greater
  • Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs or driving with a BAC of 0.08% or greater
  • Possession of alcohol in a vehicle by a person under 21

Once the concept of zero tolerance is understood, it is easier to follow the logic of why a minor may face multiple charges. In other words, think of the charges not as duplicative but compounding in nature. For example, let’s say Jeremy, an 18 year old high-school senior, goes to a graduation party and has a few shots of liquor. Jeremy leaves the party early and drives home only to be pulled over and given a breathalyzer test. His BAC registers on the device as .078% and he is arrested for DUI. By drinking anything at all, he already broke the first law. He also exceeded the BAC threshold of .05% adding another charge to the arrest. Now, here’s where the situation worsens still. If Jeremy had been over 21 years of age and registered a BAC of .078%, the officer may have let him go under the standard “legal limit” definition for DUI especially if his driving was not bad. However, as a minor, Jeremy drove while impaired—period—therefore, he could have been subject to a third charge. A fourth would have been assessed if he or a passenger had an open container of alcohol in the vehicle.

A highly-knowledgeable and skilled Los Angeles DUI attorney may be able to reduce such multiple charges under the following defenses:

  • DUI equipment malfunction
  • Failure of proof of accuracy of breath machine (P.A.S.)
  • Failure of an officer to follow proper field sobriety test procedures
  • Margin of error for acceptable BAC results
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Alcohol from other sources (i.e. trapped mouth alcohol)
  • Unlawful circumstances surrounding traffic stop or arrest

Regardless of age, everyone faces additional felony charges if they injure or kill someone while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Additionally, underage offenders must disclose DUI convictions on applications that require criminal history thus impacting employment and education opportunities. Hindsight may be 20/20 once arrested; however, there is something to be said about learning from your mistakes and not becoming a second offender. If you are in need of legal counsel, call Los Angeles DUI attorney Jon Artz at 310-820-1315 to discuss your case in confidence with no obligation to hire. We’re here to help.

*defining note: In the United States as of 1995, minor is legally defined as a person under the age of 18, although 21 with the context of alcohol or gambling; people under the age of 21 may be referred to as “minors”.

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