Most people are quite familiar with the DUI laws in California. They understand that if they are stopped by police and register a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, that they could potentially be charged with driving under the influence.

The state has additional laws in place that pertain to motorists who are under age 21. These drivers have very different standards that they must adhere to, or they face significant consequences for violation of these laws. We will discuss laws that apply to underage motorists, and invite you to reach out to us for more information should you, your son or daughter be charged with an underage DUI offense.

Zero tolerance laws

California Vehicle Code Section 23136 is the state’s “Zero Tolerance Law.” This statute makes it unlawful for anyone under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle if he or she has a blood alcohol content of 0.01 percent or higher. Anyone under the age of 21 who is driving a motor vehicle is deemed to have given consent to a blood or breath test to check his or her BAC if requested by police.  This offense is an infraction and cannot lead to jail time.

The 0.01 percent standard basically means that if a person has consumed any alcohol at all, he or she will be above the limit that is in place. The driver does not have to show signs of impairment, or that the alcohol had any effect on his or her driving ability. If a motorist refuses the test, his or her license can be suspended for at least one year.

BAC of 0.05 percent and higher

Vehicle Code Section 23140 states that it is unlawful for motorists under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle if their BAC is 0.05 percent or greater. The same requirements to submit to a blood or breath test if requested apply. If convicted of the offense, the motorist may lose his or her license for one year, with fines and additional penalties imposed as well.  This offense is an infraction and cannot lead to jail time.

BAC of 0.08 percent and above

All drivers – regardless of age – who are stopped and have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher are engaging in unlawful conduct according to Vehicle Code Section 23152(a). For motorists between 18 to 21 years old, a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher can lead to jail time and the same punishment and consequences that apply to individuals over 21.

If facing underage DUI charges, know that there may be options available to you to build a strategic defense. The entire situation must be reviewed to determine the best path forward. Knowing how to fight the charges can help you limit the impact that this will have upon your future.