Understanding Under 21 DUI Charges

Have you ever had dinner out with friends and enjoyed a beer or glass of wine before getting in your car and driving home? Depending on your body chemistry and weight, the food you ate with your drink, and how long you were at the restaurant, you could very well be under the legal BAC limit of 0.08 when you get in your car even if you did enjoy a drink with friends.

For anyone age 21 and older, that’s where you want to be to avoid a DUI. Do note, however, that you should always be aware of your own ability and cognitive function. One strong drink might be more than enough to make safety an issue, and if you are ever worried about your sobriety, consider playing it safe by calling an Uber or using a designated driver.

And if you’re under the age of 21, know that the numbers are very different. The 0.08 BAC limit doesn’t apply to you. California’s zero-tolerance policies for underage drinking and driving kick into effect as soon as you have almost any alcohol in your system.

Keep reading to find out more about California’s DUI laws for those under 21 and how drinking and driving can lead to a suspended license quickly.

California’s APS Zero Tolerance Law

As a driver under age 21, if you have a BAC between 0.01 and 0.05, you aren’t charged with a DUI under Vehicle Code Section 23152(b). That means there’s no potential jail time and you may not have a criminal conviction on your record. However, if the “charge” sticks—i.e., you can’t successfully defend against it—your license will be suspended for an entire year.

If you have a BAC of 0.05 but lower than 0.08, you can face an underage DUI charge. This is a criminal charge, so a conviction does mean you end up with a criminal charge on your record. You also lose your license and face potential penalties, which are discussed in the section below. If you have a BAC of 0.08 or higher, you may face the same penalties as someone age 21 or older with a similar BAC in addition to license suspension.

APS stands for “Admin Per Se” and refers to the automatic revocation or suspension of someone’s license if they fall afoul of this law. This is also called the administrative license suspension program.

Penalties for Under 21 DUI Charges in the State

If you are charged with underage DUI, the penalties include:

  • Loss of your license for one year
  • Mandatory attendance at a three-month DUI course, which you must pay for
  • A fine of $100

If you are charged with DUI because you have a 0.08 BAC or higher, you may face other penalties. Depending on how high your BAC is and how many times you have been convicted before, penalties can include months to years in jail or prison, hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines, mandated use of ignition interlock devices, loss of your license, and other consequences.

For young adults, it’s important to know that a DUI conviction can also lead to future negative consequences. College admissions or scholarships might be at risk, for example, and you may be passed over for a job you want because you have a DUI on your record.

What If You Don’t Take the BAC Test?

The DMV can also suspend the license of anyone under 21 who refuses to submit to a chemical test for blood alcohol level when asked to do so by a law enforcement officer. This is because California, like many other states, follows the principle of implied consent. By getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and driving, you are deemed to have provided implied consent for chemical BAC testing if you are ever pulled over or arrested and law enforcement has reason to believe you might be intoxicated.

Face DUI Charges With the Help of Experienced Attorneys, No Matter How Old You Are

If you are stopped as a person under the age of 21 and a chemical test indicates the presence of alcohol in your blood, the officer will take your license at that time. He or she will provide you with a form that acts as a temporary license for 30 days so you have the ability to drive while you are defending yourself. The DMV will conduct an administrative review into the case as well, and if it determines there was no reason for the zero-tolerance action, it may return your license to you.

However, you certainly don’t want to count on the DMV being in your corner as your only defense. And if you are facing charges associated with a BAC of 0.05 or 0.08 or more, the DMV won’t be able to intercede on your behalf in the criminal justice system anyway.

Instead, consider working with an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. DUI charges, including underage DUI charges, can be defended against. To find out more about what options you might have for a defense, reach out to Confianza Legal in Santa Fe Springs, CA, by calling 562-991-6298.