In California, if a person under 21 years drives under the influence of alcohol, he or she is violating DUI laws and violating the state's law on consuming alcohol and driving. Under California law, driving under the influence of alcohol is a severely penalized crime for underage drivers than other drivers. 18-year-old drivers in California may be mature, but they are limited to alcohol access until they attain 21 years of age. The California law has zero-tolerance for underage drivers who drive under the  influence. Blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than 0.08% is considered a DUI violation for most drivers. However, blood alcohol content of 0.01% can lead to a DUI charge for underage drivers. Therefore, as an underage driver, you may be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, even if you drink half a can of light beer that may not have a physical effect on your ability to drive. If you are facing underage DUI charges, Orange County Criminal Lawyer can assist you in creating defenses against your charges.

VC 23136 Zero Tolerance Statute

It's illegal under VC 23136 for a person below 21 years to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.01 or more as determined by any chemical test or preliminary alcohol screening test. The court could charge you of violating DUI law on underage driving  if you are found guilty. It could take you less than one standard drink or beer in one hour to attain 0.01%, depending on your weight and height. Under this statute, if you drive with any alcohol content in your blood, it will  not lead to jail term, but you could lose your driving license for one year.

VC 23140 Underage DUI Statute

It's illegal under VC 23140 for a person below 21 years to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.05% or higher. Depending on your weight and height, it could take you two standard drinks or beers in one hour to attain 0.05%. Compared to the zero-tolerance statute, the penalties under this statute are more severe. They include:

  • You have to pay and attend a three month DUI course
  • You may receive two demerit points on your record of driving. If you receive four points in one year, the DMV could suspend your driver's license for six months.
  • You will pay a fine of up to $ 100 for a first crime, $ 200 for a second crime, and $300 for a third crime within one year
  • Your scholarship, employment opportunities, and future school could be affected once a DUI goes on your permanent record.
  • You may lose your license for one year or until you reach 18 years, depending on which takes longer

VC 23152 Standard DUI Statute

It's a crime under VC 23152 for a person under 21 years to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. As an underage, the court may charge you with a standard adult DUI if you are found guilty of driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more. Depending on your weight and height, it may take you three to four standard drinks or beers to attain 0.08% blood alcohol content. If the court convicts you of violating VC 23152, you may face the following penalties:

  • You may have to pay and attend a DUI or alcohol education program for three to nine months
  • You could get a license suspension for one year
  • Probation for three to five years
  • You will pay hefty fines between $390 to $1000, lawyer's fees, and court costs amounting to $10,000. You may pay if you are above 18 years, and if you are below 18 years, your parents will pay the fine for you.
  • Sentence of up to six months in county jail if you are above 18 years or a youth detention facility if you are below 18 years.
  • A criminal misdemeanor may go on your permanent record, affecting your employment opportunities, scholarship, and future school.

If the court convicts you of standard misdemeanor DUI by causing injury to another person, you could face the following penalties:

  • Drug or alcohol DUI education
  • Payment of restitution to the injured person
  • Three to five years of probation
  • A fine of between $390 to $1000
  • Sentence of five days to one year in a county jail

As an underage driver, if you drive under alcohol or drug influence and cause death or severe injuries to another person, the court may convict you of a felony DUI crime. If that is the case, you could face a sentence of four years in jail minimum. The court could enhance your jail term depending on the number of people injured, and the DMV might revoke your driver's license.

Additional DUI Consequences

The effects of underage DUI charges may be more than alcohol education, probation, suspension of license, and fines. Other effects of underage DUI charge include:

Youth Drunk Driver Program

Apart from the penalties imposed on underage DUI defendants, there is an additional requirement that California DUI law must fulfill. This requirement is where a youth defendant has to participate in a program that exposes them to the traumatic human consequences of severe car accidents due to DUI. Often on the weekend, very late at night, youth defendants are taken to emergency room trauma centers for them to see injured people recuperating from surgery. They are also shown those disabled or have lost limbs and those on life support machines due to DUI accidents. They are also taken to the morgue to see the deceased due to DUI accidents. Finally, the discussion of what they saw and why it is unacceptable and dangerous to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs takes place.

Negative Effects on Insurance

You may be forced to pay higher car insurance premiums if the court convicts you of underage DUI. You may be regarded as a high-risk driver by your car insurance if they learn of your DUI charge. It could also be a strategy to make you look for another insurance provider if you are dropped from your former insurance provider's policy.

Impacts on Employment Background Checks Results

Your employer may discover your underage DUI charge, depending on his or her background checks. Your career advancement could be hindered or reputation negatively affected because of your previous DUI charge. A DUI charge or impaired driving conviction may negatively affect your development in a career. This is because often, many employers carry out background checks on their existing or prospective employees.

Testing of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

As an underage driver in California, your BAC may be determined by a blood or breath test. Under certain conditions, you may have a urine test option. Under the age of 21, drivers take the preliminary alcohol screening test also known as PAS or roadside breath test. It is compulsory for underage drivers suspected of drinking and driving to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test for BAC in California. A PAS is meant to determine the alcohol in the driver's breath and convert it mathematically to equivalent blood alcohol concentration. Refusing to undergo a PAS test for drivers below 21 years is the same as refusing a chemical test for adult drivers. PAS test helps the traffic law enforcers to decide whether to arrest a driver below 21 years for driving under the influence. This test acts as the main sobriety field test for underage in California. Therefore, whether the court convicts you of DUI or not, any driver below 21 years refusing to undergo a PAS test may have his or her license suspended.

The drivers above 21 years in California are not required by the law to undergo a PAS test. If you have been legally arrested for DUI, an evidentiary DUI test or a post-arrest test is compulsory in California. The police must administer this test even if you have undergone a PAS test. An evidentiary breath follows a DUI arrest. This test often occurs on a desktop device at the police station, or they may administer the same at a DUI checkpoint. In the case of a DUI checkpoint, the police conduct the test on a mobile police unit. A roadside preliminary alcohol testing often occurs during a traffic stop or a DUI investigation.

Most drivers prefer to undergo a DUI breath test when given the options to choose between a DUI blood test and breath test. A breath test delivers quick results and less invasive as opposed to a blood test. Some drivers don't like a DUI breath test, especially those with breathing conditions like asthma. Under certain situations, the police may carry out the blood test on the driver as follows:

  • The police may administer a DUI blood test rather than a breath test if the driver is dead or unconscious
  • The police may administer a DUI blood test if an underage driver is in a hospital that does not have a breath test equipment
  • If there is no doubt that the driver is under drug influence, and determining drug intoxication through a breath test is difficult. The police may therefore administer a DUI blood test if they suspect a drug case.

Rejecting a DUI Breath Test

If you refuse to undergo a post-arrest breath test in California, the DMV may suspend your driver's license for one year. If the court convicts you of driving under the influence of alcohol, you risk facing a compulsory enhanced jail term of 48 hours. If you opt to undergo a blood test instead of a breath test, you will not face any consequences.

Challenging DUI Breath Test Results

For your attorney to challenge your breath test results, he or she can use the provisions under Title 17 of the California Code of regulations. This regulation outlines the recommended DUI chemical testing procedures in California. This is because; breath tests in California are prone to many errors and may cause defective BAC readings. An experienced DUI attorney may assist you in challenging the false breath test results before the court if the test proves you guilty of underage DUI. The police and laboratories must adhere to the procedures recommended under Title 17 when DUI breath samples are collected and processed.

If an omission occurs during the breath testing procedure, your DUI attorney may use the error to challenge the results. The false evidence might not apply if your attorney files a motion according to PC 1538.5. Therefore, the breath test result could be left out from the charge if the motion succeeds in court. Your charges could be reduced or dismissed if there will be no sufficient evidence. Some requirements must be in place for a breath test under Title 17. They include:

  • The testing officer must observe the driver for more than 15 minutes before conducting a breath test. During the observation period, the driver should be restrained from putting anything in their mouth, smoking, vomiting, or burping. This may elicit alcohol from the stomach to the mouth.
  • The testing officer must conduct two breath tests, and they should not exceed each other with more than 0.02 grams for every 100 milliliters of BAC.
  • After 150 uses or every ten days, calibration of the breath-testing machine is necessary
  • A comprehensive record of the machine calibration and test results must be kept by the laboratory performing the DUI analysis.
  • The testing officer must have the right qualifications properly on how to handle the testing machine.
  • The testing officer must collect deep alveolar air that is from deep within the lungs
  • Always the DUI breath device must be kept in good working condition.

Underage Driver's License Suspension Challenge

In California, the Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for handling license suspension cases. As an underage driver, you can seek a DUI attorney's help to file for a license suspension hearing from the Department of motor vehicles. You must file your request after refusing to take a DUI test or within ten days after a VC 23136 citation since the hearing is not automatic. A DUI attorney can handle the entire hearing without you having to court. If the hearing goes in your favor, the court may cancel your license revocation. You may also appeal the decision of the hearing officer if the hearing does not favor you. You may have to pay $ 120 and submit a request to appeal against the hearing officer's decision.

Defenses to Underage DUI charges

There are several defenses you can offer if you are arrested for underage DUI in California. The common defenses include:

  • You were on a low carbohydrate or high protein diet
  • The police failed to inform you regarding your rights
  • You had alcohol smell from another source such as cough syrup or mouth wash
  • The police had no probable cause to stop you; therefore, they violated your rights
  • You had a medical condition such as GERD or acid reflux
  • Rising blood alcohol caused positive BAC results
  • You were not driving
  • The testing officers administered the breath test improperly, or the breathalyzer was defective
  • You were within the margin of error for acceptable BAC result
  • The police did not adhere to proper DUI chemical testing procedures

Low Carbohydrate or High Protein Diet

Some medical conditions and type of the diet you take may cause your body to illicit substances similar to alcohol chemical characteristics. Hypoglycemia and diabetes are the medical conditions that cause the production of substances known as ketones in the body. The DUI breath-testing device may not be able to differentiate between alcohol and ketones. Often, a DUI test device may produce high false BAC levels. Ketones may also result from a low carbohydrate or high protein diet.

The Police failed to Inform You of Your Rights

Before the police arrest you for underage DUI, they must first dictate your rights. The police need to inform you about your statute, or you can as well keep quiet to avoid self-incrimination. The evidence presented in court after your arrest could be invalid if the police don't inform you of your rights.

Alcohol from Cough Syrup or Mouthwash

The common defense for underage DUI can be alcohol from cough syrup or mouthwash. Cough syrup and alcohol-based mouthwash may leave alcohol traces in your mouth. Even if the alcohol has not been absorbed in the blood or an artificial alcohol, a DUI breath test device can automatically sense the alcohol. Even if you did not take alcohol, you could still be positive of alcohol on a DUI breath test and cause high false BAC results. Therefore, you could challenge your DUI charges by alleging that you had taken a cough syrup or mouthwash.

No Probable Cause for DUI Stop and Arrest

Under California law, the police have no mandate to pull over your vehicle without a probable cause. The U.S constitution fourth amendment protects the defendants of underage DUI from unlawful seizure. Therefore, if the police arrest you for underage DUI, they must justify the arrest. They must have credible reasons that made them believe that you had committed an underage DUI.

In California, the police are not allowed to merely suspect and stop every driver for driving under the influence even if they have probable cause. They can stop you for violating other traffic rules and, in the process, discover that you are driving under the influence. The probable cause requirement is only fulfilled if the police find a substantial reason to stop a motorist.

However, California's law does not require a probable cause to stop motorists at a DUI checkpoint. This is where a probable cause requirement does not apply. However, before commencing a DUI investigation, they need a probable cause requirement. If the police suspect that you are driving under the influence, the DUI investigation begins. If the police did not have a probable cause to stop you, your attorney can assist you in challenging the underage DUI charge.

GERD or Acid Reflux

Medical conditions like hiatal hernia, acid reflux, or GERD may cause false BAC results. These conditions always cause acid from the stomach to flow back in the esophagus. Since the stomach is connected to the esophagus, any alcohol in the stomach could produce mouth alcohol and cause false BAC results. Therefore, you could challenge your underage DUI charges by alleging that you have medical conditions.

Rising Blood Alcohol

At times, even if you stop drinking alcohol, your blood alcohol levels could continue to rise. The level of alcohol in blood could increase rapidly after consuming any beverage containing alcohol. After an arrest for underage DUI, you could argue that the high BAC levels resulted from rising blood alcohol. This is because, two hours after taking alcohol, your blood alcohol levels could continue rising until it reaches the peak. You can also argue that, while driving, your blood alcohol level was at the recommended limit but got higher when you arrived at a DUI testing.

You were not Driving

You may allege that you were not driving if no police or any other person saw you driving the vehicle. In California, this type of argument is common among most drivers. Police and standbys often overlook some underage DUI crimes. The traffic law enforcers only appear at the scene of an accident if they stop you vehicle or a vehicle breaks down. You may not face underage DUI charges if the police fail to provide sufficient evidence that you were driving the vehicle. However, if the prosecutor can provide substantial evidence against you, you may face DUI charges. The charges may otherwise be invalid if the prosecutor fails to prove the charges against you. To prove you guilty of the crime, the prosecutors use circumstantial and direct evidence in most cases.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you are facing underage DUI charges, the DMV could suspend your driver's license for one year. Therefore it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. If your case proceeds to trial, he or she will represent you in court and at the DMV hearing. The Orange County Criminal Lawyer provides the best representation for underage DUI. Contact us at 714-262-4833 and speak to one of our attorneys.

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