Underage DUI Defense Lawyers
California Laws Against Underage Drunk Driving
Traffic accidents are a leading cause of deaths among teenagers and young adults. There are a number of reasons for these accidents, but a large number of them are caused by the inexperience of the driver, distracted driving, or underage drinking. Although the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) research shows underage drinking has been declining in recent years , a large number of fatal accidents involving young drivers are still contributed to use of alcohol or drugs. 1 For example:
- In 2012, 23% of drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal car accidents were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- A 2013 survey found that 22% of teen passengers reported riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. 2
Statistics like these have influenced California lawmakers, who have adopted a policy of “zero tolerance” for underage drinking and driving.
Potential Crimes for Underage Driving Under the Influence
There are a number of criminal charges that a driver under the age of 21 can face if he or she is found to have consumed alcohol. It is important to note that, if you are under the age of 21, you could be charged with all of the following crimes from a single arrest, even though the charges seem to overlap:
Underage Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol – California Vehicle Code 23136 VC
Under California Vehicle Code 23136, “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.” 5 This is the “zero tolerance law,” which effectively makes it a crime for any person under the age of 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in his or her system.
Underage Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol with BAC of 0.05 or Greater – Vehicle Code 23140 VC
This law states, “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.” Similar to VC section 23136, this law makes driving under the influence a crime at blood alcohol levels lower than those for persons over the age of 21.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol – Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC
This section is the general DUI law in California, and applies to any driver, regardless of age. It states, in part, “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.”
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol with BAC of 0.08 or Higher – Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC
Under this law, “It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.”
Minor in Possession of Alcohol – Vehicle Code Section 23224 VC
This law makes it a crime for a driver (or a passenger) of a motor vehicle who is under the age of 21 to possess or control an alcoholic beverage, unless doing so at reasonable direction of a parent, legal guardian, or employer for purposes of transporting the beverage. 6
The Prosecution’s Case for Underage DUI Crimes
In order to convict you of underage DUI under Vehicle Code 23136, the prosecutor must prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant drove a vehicle;
- When he or she drove, the defendant’s blood alcohol level was 0.01 percent or more by weight; AND
- At that time, the defendant was under 21 years old. 7
To convict you of underage DUI with a BAC of 0.05 or higher under Vehicle Code 23140, the prosecution must prove to the jury three basic elements:
- The defendant drove a vehicle;
- When he or she drove, the defendant’s blood alcohol level was 0.05 percent or more by weight; AND
- At that time, the defendant was under 21 years old.
These elements are the same for a charge of violating Vehicle Code section 23152, except that the driver’s blood alcohol level must be 0.08 or higher, and the driver’s age is irrelevant. For a violation of VC 23152, the prosecution need not prove that the driver was under the age of 21 at the time of when he or she drove the vehicle. 8
To prove possession of an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle while under the age of 21 under VC 23224, the prosecution must prove that the driver or passenger:
- Carried alcohol inside a vehicle;
- The container for the alcohol was not full, unsealed, and opened;
- The defendant was under the age of 21; AND
- The defendant was not:
a. accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or other specified adult,
b. disposing of the alcohol pursuant to a reasonable order given by a parent, legal guardian, or other specified adult; or
c. transporting the alcohol at the direction of an employer with a legitimate liquor license.
Penalties for Underage DUI
Upon conviction of underage DUI under Vehicle Code 23136, you face one-year suspension of your driver’s license.
For a first time violation of underage DUI with a BAC of 0.05 or more under Vehicle Code 23140, you face:
- A one-year suspension of your driver’s license;
- A fine of $100; and
- Mandatory enrollment and attendance of an alcohol education program of three months or longer (if over the age of 18).
A standard DUI conviction under Vehicle Code 23152(a) & (b) carries the most serious penalties of this group of laws. This is a misdemeanor crime in California, upon which you face:
- Suspension of your driver’s license;
- Between three and five years of probation;
- A maximum fine of $1,000;
- A maximum jail term of six months; and
- Mandatory enrollment in an alcohol and/or drug education program.
Finally, the punishments for minor in possession of alcohol under Vehicle Code section 23224 include:
- A one-year suspension of your driver’s license;
- A maximum fine of $1,000; and
- Impounding of your vehicle for a maximum of 30 days at the owner’s expense.
Defenses to Underage DUI Charges
There are several defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney can raise on your behalf for a charge of underage DUI. These include:
- You were not driving;
- Your blood alcohol was still rising at the time of the test, meaning that at the time you were actually driving, your BAC was lower;
- The alcohol detected was from a non-beverage source, such as mouthwash or cough syrup;
- The traffic stop and/or arrest was unlawful; or
- The officer made a procedural error, such as failing to advise you of your rights.
Frequently Asked Questions
At Wallin & Klarich, we frequently receive comments and questions from clients regarding underage DUI cases. Some of these include:
1. Will an underage DUI conviction affect my ability to go to a college or university?
This will depend on the admissions policy of the school to which you have applied. However, you should know that if you have a scholarship, many of the foundations that supply the funding for scholarships require recipients to have clean records. If you have been convicted, an experienced DUI attorney may be able to help you save your scholarship by having your conviction expunged.
2. Can I receive a restricted license instead of a suspension?
If your license is suspended, you may apply to receive a restricted license. This license grants you the privilege to drive to and from your home and your work or school. However, to be eligible, you must serve a mandatory 30-day suspension period.
3. Will my license be automatically reinstated when the suspension is over?
No. Just as with persons over the age of 21, an underage DUI suspension of driving privileges will only be lifted after the period of suspension has been served, and upon meeting these conditions:
- Payment of a reinstatement fee to the DMV of $100; and
- Providing an SR22 form from your insurance company as proof of insurance.
Contact the Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to Begin Your Underage DUI Defense
A charge of driving under the influence carries the possibility of serious, life-
changing consequences, regardless of your age. That is why you will need the help of an experienced and skilled DUI attorney to help with your case. At Wallin & Klarich, we have successfully defended underage and adult drivers accused of driving under the influence for over 30 years. We can help you, too. Contact us today for a free, no obligation phone consultation.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney experienced in California criminal defense near you, no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. [“Teen Drinking and Driving: A Dangerous Mix,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 2012, available at http://www.cdc.gov/VitalSigns/teendrinkinganddriving/index.html.]↩
2. [“Teen Drivers: Get the Facts,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 2014, available at http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html.]↩
3. [Cal. Veh. Code §23136(a).]↩
4. [Cal. Veh. Code §23140.]↩
5. [Cal. Veh. Code §23152.]↩
6. [See Cal. Veh. Code §23224, generally.]↩
7. [CALCRIM No. 2113 Driving With 0.05 Percent Blood Alcohol When Under 21 (Veh. Code, § 23140(a))]↩
8. [See CALCRIM Nos. 2110 Driving Under the Influence (Veh. Code, § 23152(a)); and 2111 Driving With 0.08 Percent Blood Alcohol (Veh. Code, § 23152(b)).]↩