Getting a DUI as an adult can throw a wrench into your career, your reputation, and your personal relationships. Getting a DUI under 21 can be equally devastating, because it has the potential to affect college admission, eligibility for student loans, and other opportunities that can shape the course of a young person’s future. If your son or daughter was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Ventura County, he or she may be facing harsh penalties, even if it is his or her first drunk driving offense. A Ventura criminal defense lawyer at Bamieh & De Smeth explain the punishment for underage DUI in California, including license suspension, fines, and other consequences of an intoxicated driving conviction for juveniles.

What is the Underage DUI Penalty for a First Offense in CA?

According to DUI arrest statistics compiled by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), over 180,000 people were arrested for intoxicated driving in California during 2011 alone. Approximately 142,000 of these people, or about 79%, were convicted. If you or a loved one is ever arrested for DUI in California, it is critical that you are represented by a skilled and experienced Ventura DUI attorney who will take your case seriously and provide the aggressive defense that the charges demand.

If a person is convicted of DUI in Ventura, he or she will have tough penalties to face – even if he or she is a minor, and even if he or she has a clean record. Too many defendants make the mistake of thinking they will be “safe” from harsh penalties due to their age, but in fact, the consequences of underage DUI can have serious repercussions, not only with regard to college enrollment and loan eligibility, but also in terms of fines, loss of driving privileges, and other penalties. The higher the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC), the greater the consequences – but before we approach that subject, our DUI defense lawyers will start with an examination of the lowest BAC that can lead to underage DUI charges in California.

There are two separate DUI statutes that apply specifically to drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 in California:

  1. Cal. Vehicle Code § 23136
  2. Cal. Vehicle Code § 23140

Under Cal. Vehicle Code § 23136(a), “[I]t is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 years who has a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or greater… to drive a vehicle.” In other words, the BAC limit for drivers under 21 is just 0.01% – not 0.08%. That means a driver under 21 can be charged with DUI for driving with essentially any measurable amount of alcohol in his or her system, even without being impaired or intoxicated. This is sometimes referred to as California’s “Zero Tolerance” law.

Cal. Veh. Code § 23140 specifically applies to drivers under 21 with a BAC of or over 0.05%. The penalties for driving with a BAC of or exceeding 0.05% are greater than those for drivers with a lower BAC. These penalties may include the following:

  • BAC of or above 0.01% – Driver’s license suspended for 1 year
  • BAC of or above 0.05% – Driver’s license suspended for 1 year, $100 in fines, mandatory participation in a three-month alcohol education course (for drivers age 18 or older)

As you probably noticed, jail time is not imposed for drivers who violate the Zero Tolerance law or Cal. Veh. Code § 23140. That is because violations of these statutes are not technically crimes (like felonies, “wobblers,” and misdemeanors), but infractions. Nonetheless, legal representation is beneficial for two reasons:

  1. Your DUI defense attorney can potentially prevent your license from being suspended by representing you effectively at your DMV hearing.
  2. In the event that your license is suspended, your California DUI lawyer can make it easier for you to get a “restricted hardship license,” which will allow you to commute, transport family members, and drive to and from school while your normal license is suspended.

Can A Driver Under 21 Be Charged as an Adult for Intoxicated Driving in Ventura?

If an underage driver operates a vehicle with a BAC of or exceeding 0.08%, he or she becomes subject to the same penalties that would be imposed upon an adult. Adult DUI penalties can also be imposed on underage motorists who drive while impaired by alcohol and/or controlled substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, or prescription painkillers, even at a lower BAC (or, in the case of DUI with drugs, no measurable BAC at all).

In Ventura County, the following penalties may be imposed on drivers under 21 who (1) drive while impaired or (2) drive with a BAC of or above 0.08%:

  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Fines that can exceed $3,000 – some of the most expensive in California
  • Mandatory participation in a 3-month or 9-month alcohol education course or drug education course
  • Probation ranging from 3 to 5 years
  • Up to 6 months in the Ventura County Jail system, like the Todd Road Facility (or, if the driver is a minor, up to 6 months in juvenile custody, like the Ventura County Juvenile Hall Facility)

In addition to all of these costs and fees, keep in mind that bail for misdemeanor DUI in Ventura County can be up to $5,000. Juveniles (people under age 18) cannot post bail.

Contact a Ventura Juvenile DUI Defense Lawyer if You Were Arrested for Drunk Driving

It does not matter whether you are under 18, under 21, or any other age: an arrest for drunk driving can have devastating consequences. You risk being heavily fined, being placed on probation, being incarcerated or detained, losing your license, gaining a criminal record, having higher insurance costs, losing work opportunities or educational opportunities, and other unwanted outcomes. Regardless of whether you are an adult or a juvenile, you urgently need legal representation to fight the DUI and mitigate the negative consequences.

If you, your son or daughter, or another family member was arrested for drunk driving in Ventura County or Santa Barbara County, get legal help from a tough, experienced, and proven Oxnard defense attorney who knows how to approach challenging DUI cases. For a free legal consultation with our Ventura juvenile criminal defense lawyers, contact The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555 immediately.