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Juvenile and Underage DUI

A juvenile or underage DUI charge can be a frightening and intimidating experience for an entire family. The legal, social, and economic consequences of a drunk driving conviction can affect an individual for many years. In the state of California, you may be charged with an underage DUI if you are under the age of 21 and operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. If you are under the age of 18 at the time of a DUI arrest, you may be charged with a juvenile DUI.

Zero Tolerance Law

Under California Law (CVC 23136), it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01% or higher. The law in California is very strict when it comes to underage drinking and driving. Underage DUI or Vehicle Code 23140 VC is considered anyone under 21 years of age driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of  .05% or higher. Since the legal limit is substantially lower than the limit for adults, one drink may put a minor over the limit.

The law in California is very strict when it comes to an underage DUI and zero tolerance applies to any form of alcohol, even medicines containing alcohol. 

If you are pulled over for an underage DUI, you will most likely be given a roadside PAS test (preliminary alcohol screening test). The most common form of a PAS test is a breathalyzer. The breathalyzer measures the alcohol in your breath and mathematically converts it to the equivalent in your blood. 

If you are arrested after the PAS test (preliminary alcohol screening test), you will often be given a post-arrest chemical test. This can be a DUI blood test or another breath test.

If you are convicted of an underage DUI, you can expect the following:

1. Your license will be suspended for one year by the California DMV. You can challenge this DMV suspension and our experienced attorneys can represent you at the hearing and possible win the hearing and have your case dismissed. 

2. You will be fined $100 for a first offense.

3. You will be ordered to attend alcohol education programs for at least 3 month if you are over 18 years of age. 

4. You could also be charged with possession of alcohol in a vehicle by a person under 21 per Vehicle Code 23224. A person under 21 cannot carry alcohol in their vehicle. There are a few exceptions that make it okay for an underage person to have alcohol in their vehicle. 

           1. A person under 21 can have alcohol in their vehicle if it is part of their job and the employer has a legitimate liquor license or, 

           2. the container is untouched unopened and sealed or, 

           3. the person under 21 is instructed by an adult to discard of the alcohol.

Possession of alcohol in a vehicle by a person under 21 (Vehicle Code 23224) is a misdemeanor and the penalties are much more serious than an underage DUI. If charged and convicted of possession of alcohol in a vehicle by a person under 21, you can expect the following:

1. You will be fined up to $1000

2. Your vehicle will be impounded for up to 30 days

3. Your driver's license will be suspended for a year

Should you lose your license, our attorneys can assist you in getting a 'restricted hardship license" for you to have during your one year license suspension. If you get a "restricted hardship license" you will be able to drive to school or work if you cannot find other transportation. 

These charges may not have long-term consequences if they are quickly addressed by an experienced DUI attorney. Please contact us as soon as possible so we can work to get the charges dismissed.

If your BAC (blood alcohol count) is over .08% you will be charged with an adult or "standard" DUI under Vehicle Code 23152 regardless of your age. This is a much more serious charge and you will be charged based on standard DUI penalties. These penalties for a first time DUI can include:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Up to 5 years informal probation
  • Alcohol and/or drug education programs
  • Driver’s license suspension 

Legal DUI Defenses

If you have been charged with an underage DUI, our attorneys can help you. Call us for a free consultation and we can begin to discreetly and respectfully investigate your case. Our attorneys are specifically trained and exclusively handle these types of cases in San Diego and Orange County. 

We can work with you to create a thorough, effective defense strategy to help fight the charges. 

Common defenses for this type of offense include the following:

1.    The traffic stop or arrest was unlawful.

  • An officer must have reasonable belief or reasonable suspicion, known as probable cause to pull you over. If we can find that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion that you were engaging in criminal activity when they pulled you over, the evidence they obtain after pulling you over is suppressed and it cannot be used against you. This could result in your case being reduced or dismissed.

2.    You were not the one driving the vehicle.

  • If we can successfully prove that you were not driving the vehicle, this could result in your case being reduced or dismissed.

3.    The DUI testing equipment was faulty or outdated and therefore unreliable.

  • In California a breath testing device must be calibrated every 150 uses or every 10 days, whichever comes first. If we find that the testing device was not correctly calibrated, this could lead to your case being reduced or dismissed. 

4.    The person giving the sobriety test did not follow proper procedures. 

  • Some mistakes that people administering a breath test can make are not checking that your mouth is empty before the test and not attaching the mouthpiece correctly to the machine. If these errors are found to have been made during your breath testing, your case could be reduced or dismissed.

5.   The person administering the sobriety test did not keep proper records.

  • The person giving the breath test must continually observe you for 15 minutes before the test and during those 15 minutes you cannot smoke, eat, drink, burp or vomit. If we find that this was not done correctly, your case may be reduced or dismissed. 

6.    You were on a high protein/low carbohydrate diet.

  • If you were on a high protein/low carbohydrate diet during the time of your arrest, you could argue that the breath test mistook the ketones that your body produced for alcohol. Ketones are also produced when someone is fasting or a diabetic. These are all issues that could factor into having your case reduced or dismissed.

7.     Environmental factors interfered with the tests.

  • There are several factors that can be taken into consideration to explain poor performance on your field sobriety test. Possibly there was poor lighting in the area, or the test was given on an uneven surface, or you were wearing shoes that made the tests difficult. 
  •  There is also the possibility that the offer was intimidating and that hindered your tests.

8.    You had a specific medical condition at the time of the arrest, such as acid reflux or heartburn.

  • There are recognized medical conditions that can cause mouth alcohol confusion. If you have one of these conditions that causes acid to flow from the stomach into the mouth, it could contaminate your DUI breath test results. GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), heartburn and acid reflux have been know to cause a falsely high BAC on California breath tests. One of these conditions could help get your case reduced or even dismissed. 

9.    The officers failed to properly and fully advise you of your legal rights.

  • It is required for an officer to advise you of your legal rights when you are arrested. When the officer begins their "custodial interrogation" they begin to ask you questions designed to get incriminating responses from you and they will use against you. If the officer does not read your rights, the statements that you make can possibly not be used as evidence and the case against you could be reduced or dismissed.

10.   The alcohol present in your mouth was from another source, such as mouthwash.

  • Residual alcohol in the mouth can lead to a breath test reading higher than the person actually has in their system. Perhaps you drank cough syrup or gargled with mouthwash that contained alcohol. This could result in your breath test coming back abnormal. 

11.  Unlawful DUI checkpoint stop

  • California DUI sobriety checkpoints are strictly monitored by the state and must have a supervising officer overseeing the site as well publicly advertise the DUI roadblock. If we can find that the checkpoint did not follow any of the requirements this could lead to your case being reduced or dismissed. 

Call us for your free consultation today. Our attorneys specialize in handling these types of cases in Orange County and San Diego.

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