Under 21 Criminal Charges & Critical Need Driver's License
Driving under the influence of alcohol is penalized more severely than for underage drivers than for other drivers. California has a “zero tolerance” law for underage drivers, which means that any detectable level of alcohol in the body is a violation.
If an underage driver is caught driving with alcohol in their system, they are not only violating DUI laws, but they likely consumed alcohol in violation of state law. Even though 20-year-old drivers are considered adults, their access to alcohol is limited until they reach the age of 21.
For most drivers, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than 0.08% is considered a per se DUI violation. However, for young drivers, a BAC of only 0.01% or higher can result in a DUI. That means that by drinking half a can of light beer, which may have no physical impact on an underage driver’s ability to drive, can result in a arrest for driving under the influence.
Under 21 DUI Penalties
Underage DUI penalties depend on a variety of factors; including the driver’s blood alcohol level, their age, drunk driving history, and whether or not drugs were involved.
When a minor (a person under the age of 18) is convicted for a DUI, they will lose their driver’s license for a full year, or until they turn 18, whichever is a longer duration. For drivers older than 18, but under 21, violating California’s zero tolerance law will result in a one-year suspension of the driver’s license.
If the underage driver has a chemical BAC test that is higher than 0.05%, they will face not only the one-year administrative driver’s license suspension, but will also have to pay fines and attend mandatory DUI School.
If the underage driver has a BAC greater than 0.08%, then they will be treated the same as any other driver charged with a DUI. That means possible jail time, fines and fees to exceed $1,000, a suspended driver’s license, mandatory DUI school, and probation. In some counties, including Los Angeles County, penalties will require an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in the vehicle.
If an underage driver gets a second or subsequent DUI, then the penalties only increase. They may face up to a year in jail, increased fines, a suspended license for up to 2 years, longer DUI school, as well as a possible IID (Ignition Interlock Device) restricted license.
California’s Implied Consent Laws for Underage Drivers
Like many other states, California has an “implied consent” law, which means a driver has given their implied consent to have their breath or blood tested after a DUI arrest. Even if drivers haven’t actively expressed their consent, in exchange for the privilege of having a driver’s license and driving on California roadways, consent is implied. Due to this implied consent law, you are required to submit to a blood or breath chemical test after you are arrested for drunk driving.
For drivers under 21, and for the purposes of California’s zero tolerance law, chemical tests are usually done by a preliminary alcohol screening test such as a handheld breathalyzer. If you refuse to consent to a chemical test, your license will be suspended for one year.
College Student DUIs
Some colleges and universities have disciplinary proceedings that can be imposed after a student gets a DUI. Even if the DUI occurred off campus, university policies may impose sanctions on students for a drunk driving conviction; including probation, loss of privileges, dismissal from housing, suspension, a mandatory alcohol education and intervention program, and even loss of scholarship money. Student athletes may face additional punishments.
Additionally, even after fulfilling all the obligations that come with a DUI, including fines, DUI School, and DUI probation, prospective students may be required to list their DUI on their college, graduate school, or law school application. Failure to disclose a DUI may even result in dismissal.
Car Insurance After a DUI
Car insurance is high enough for young drivers without having to add a DUI. After a DUI, underage drivers are required to get an SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility to be insured by their insurance company. A DUI will result in higher insurance premiums which may cost two or three times more than average just to be able to drive. Some auto insurance companies may not renew an underage driver’s policy when a minor (a person under the age of 18) is convicted for a DUI.
Under 21 DUI Defense
There are a number of possible defenses for underage DUI charges. Each case is unique and your California DUI defense lawyer will be able to identify the best strategy to win your case. A DUI arrest does not have to end up in a DUI conviction. If you have been charged with an under-21 DUI, your experienced California DUI defense attorney will fight for your rights. You don’t have to go through a DUI alone.