DUI Charges For Drivers Under 21 Years Of Age in California

Vehicle Code 23136

Overview Of DUI for Underage Drivers

California has some of the harshest driving while under the influence (DUI) laws in this nation and the state’s underage DUI is a zero tolerance policy.  If you are above the legal drinking age in California, to be arrested for a DUI you must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, for a person under the age of 21, your BAC has only to be 0.01% in order to be arrested for a DUI.1 Underage drivers detained and/or arrested for a DUI under the Zero Tolerance laws of the 1994 Admin Per Se (APS) program, are subject to a suspension or revocation of their license if they take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) and have a BAC greater than 0.01% or refuse to take or fail to complete the PAS or other chemical test.  Under the Zero Tolerance law, if you are under 21 and pulled over for a suspected DUI, you are deemed to consent to a PAS or other type of breath, urine, or blood test.  If you do not comply with the test, you can still be prosecuted and have your license suspended.2

License Suspension

A conviction of an underage DUI will result in the driver having his or her license suspended for one year if it is a first offense, or two to three years if there were violations of certain other sections of the California Vehicle Code or if you refuse to submit to a chemical test.

Potential Police Missteps

You must keep in mind that there are certain procedures that the police officer must follow in order for the detention and/or arrest for a DUI to be legal.  Some of these procedures include pulling over the driver only with resonable suspension, asking the driver to perform field sobriety tests, and administering a Preliminary Alcohol Screening test.  A knowledgeable local California DUI attorney can help you find a possible misstep in the procedure or police mistake and come up with many defenses to lower the charges of an underage DUI or penalties.

Additional Charges

 Penalties and Punishment

Additional charges involving underage drivers and alcohol include carrying alcohol containers, whether open or not, in your car, using a fake ID or the real ID of an older person to obtain alcohol, or ride as a passenger in the car and possess alcoholic beverages.  These offenses can be separate offenses or be compounded with your DUI charge and result in harsher consequences.

Penalties and Punishment

Depending on your BAC, the penalties vary. If your BAC is under 0.05%, you may face:

  • An infraction in traffic court and action by the DMV.

California Vehicle Code 23140 If your BAC is between 0.05% and 0.07%, it becomes an infraction and you face

  • A suspended license,
  • A fine,
  • A minimum three-month alcohol education program, and
  • Possibly the “Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program.”3
  • The judge may also order you to abstain from drinking until you are 21.  This means that if you are caught drinking again you will face penalties for that as well.

Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC:  Lastly, if your BAC is above 0.08%, you will be charged with a California DUI offense under the California Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC no matter your age.  The penalties associated with this include, in addition to the underage penalties, heavier fines, up to one year in county jail if this is not your first offense, informal probation, a mandatory drug-alcohol class, a suspended license for one year, and a possible confiscation of your car.4

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Underage Drivers FAQs

Do I have to report a conviction of a DUI on a college or job application?

Yes,  An underage DUI will remain on your record and you are obligated to report it on college or job applications.  Failure to report a DUI conviction could lead to expulsion from school or being fired from a job.  However, it does not necessarily mean that you will not be accepted to a college or a job.  Some colleges will restrict scholarships available to you and some jobs require a special license or certification that you may not qualify for if you have a DUI.  Either way, having to report a DUI on an application can be an embarrassing or limiting issue that you would face for the rest of your life.

Will I be allowed a restricted license to get to and from school or an after-school job?

Most likely, no.  The yearlong suspension of your license is absolute and a restricted license is not available, even on a first offense.  The only possibility is to request a critical need license but these are severely limited and are only granted in extreme need and if all other transportation is inadequate. It is a good idea to hire a knowledgeable attorney immediately after the DUI arrest so that the attorney can assist you in an application for a critical need license if you meet the restrictions. California Vehicle Code 14601: If your license has been suspended and you do choose to drive with a suspended license you will be violating Vehicle Code 14601.2

Does it affect my penalties at all if I am over 18?

No.  All underage drivers are subject to the same set of laws.

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Choosing a DUI Attorney

The state of California has implemented a Zero Tolerance policy for underage drivers and drinking.  Underage drivers who have been arrested for a DUI offense face harsh penalties that range from a year-long license suspension to being prosecuted as an adult if the BAC was greater than 0.05%, which then results in harsher consequences including jail time. At the Aizman Law Firm, a Los Angeles DUI defense attorney can help you with questions you might have about the entire DUI process and penalties for an underage driver. If you need to speak to a DUI attorney about your DUI case, please call our office at: (818) 351-9555 for a free consultation. ((We help clients in the following areas Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Woodland Hills, Burbank, Torrance, San Bernardino, Sherman Oaks, Long Beach, Studio City, Santa Monica, Westwood, Brentwood, Encino, Studio City, Westlake Village, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Ventura, Riverside, Santa Clarita, Valencia, and Orange County.))

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  1. California Vehicle Code 23136; Notwithstanding Sections 23152 and 23153, it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 years who has a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or greater, as measured by a preliminary alcohol screening test or other chemical test, to drive a vehicle. However, this section shall not be a bar to prosecution under Section 23152 or 23153 or any other provision of law. []
  2. Vehicle Code 23136(b) A person shall be found to be in violation of subdivision (a) if the person was, at the time of driving, under the age of 21 years, and the trier of fact finds that the person had consumed an alcoholic beverage and was driving a vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or greater, as measured by a preliminary alcohol screening test or other chemical test: California Vehicle Code 23136©1 Any person under the age of 21 years who drives a motor vehicle is deemed to have given his or her consent to a preliminary alcohol screening test or other chemical test for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol in the person, if lawfully detained for an alleged violation of subdivision; Vehicle Code 23136(2) The testing shall be incidental to a lawful detention and administered at the direction of a peace officer having reasonable cause to believe the person was driving a motor vehicle in violation of subdivision (a). (3) The person shall be told that his or her failure to submit to, or the failure to complete, a preliminary alcohol screening test or other chemical test as requested will result in the suspension or revocation of the person’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle for a period of one year to three years, as provided in Section 13353.1. []
  3. California Vehicle Code 23140; (a) It is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 years who has 0.05 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle. (b) A person may be found to be in violation of subdivision (a) if the person was, at the time of driving, under the age of 21 years and under the influence of, or affected by, an alcoholic beverage regardless of whether a chemical test was made to determine that person’s blood-alcohol concentration and if the trier of fact finds that the person had consumed an alcoholic beverage and was driving a vehicle while having a concentration of 0.05 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood. (c) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, upon a finding that a person has violated this section, the clerk of the court shall prepare within 10 days after the finding and immediately forward to the department an abstract of the record of the court in which the finding is made. That abstract shall be a public record and available for public inspection in the same manner as other records reported under Section 1803. []
  4. California Vehicle Code Section 23152;  It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle. []