Underage DUI with a BAC of 0.05 or Higher
The DUI laws are strict and that is for very good reasons. In 2017, there were more than 10,874 people that died as a result of reckless drunk driving. A person operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance may face jail time and license suspension for up to 5 years. Those found operating a vehicle while under the age of 21, but above the age of 18 may face the same punishments as adults who break the same laws.
The DUI laws explain serious consequences for those driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Drunk driving contributes to a third of all driving fatalities in the United States. To put into perspective 30 individuals lost their lives every day in 2017 due to drunk driving. Drunk driving puts at risk the health and safety of all drivers on the highway.
For the reasons mentioned above, drunk drivers face harsh penalties for violating the driving laws. The following applies to drunk drivers under the age of 21:
The California Zero Tolerance Law aims to discourage a person under the age of 21 to consume any amount of alcohol before getting behind the wheel. Those under the age of 21 cannot legally operate a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system. This is the reason the law is called zero tolerance. To operate a motorized vehicle you cannot be impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Driving with a point above zero can result in arrest and may also result in the suspension of your license. More so, penalties increase if you cause damage to property or cause bodily injuries to a passenger or bystander.
If you have been arrested for violating the Vehicle Code 23140, you may want to speak to an attorney. A drunk driving accusation has serious consequences that can be reduced if your attorney can prove that their evidence is not reliable. The Title 17 Code of Regulations requires law enforcement agents to abide by certain codes during the time of the arrest and while collecting the BAC sample. The code of regulations exists to guide law enforcement and to reduce the amount of error while collecting a BAC sample. Evidence can be challenged when there is an error in the collected sample or when there prove of misconduct.
An experienced DUI attorney can help guide your case to ensure that you are not wrongfully convicted. There are a number of factors that can affect the evidence against you. A DUI attorney can help dismiss DUI charges when evidence is faulty. In other cases, a DUI attorney can help reduce DUI charges to "wet reckless" charges which always hold lesser punishments than a DUI. To learn about the legal defense strategies that may apply to your case, you may contact the San Diego DUI Attorney at 619-535-7150.
The following will cover general laws that apply to individuals charged for underage drivers with a BAC of .05 percent or higher. To learn about the specifics of your situation, you should consult with a qualified professional who is capable of applying the law to your case.
Blood Alcohol Concentration
Before diving into the laws that apply to DUI’s it is crucial to understand what is blood alcohol concentration (BAC), what it means to have a 0.08 percent BAC. Additionally, you should understand how BAC samples are collected and tested. In the state of California, if your BAC reading is above 0.08 percent, then you are legally too drunk to be operating a motorized vehicle. When you drink alcohol, your body functions are affected by the amount of alcohol in your blood. At a BAC of 0.02, the body begins to feel slightly numb and warm. At a BAC of 0.06 percent, the judgment and perception become impaired. Once your BAC is 0.08, your body experiences a loss of coordination which affects your mechanical movements. It's at this point that it becomes illegal to drive a car. Keep in mind that everyone has a different BAC that is affected by height and body weight. To ensure you are legally okay to drive, you may want to use a BAC calculator to learn how alcohol affects your body type.
To establish probable cause and proceed with an arrest, a police officer may require you to comply with a field sobriety test. The field sobriety test (FTS) occurs while you are stopped on the highway. If you fail an FST you will be required to submit to an additional test at the police station or at a testing facility. An FTS is optional for drivers over the age of 21 if you are under the age of 21 you are required to comply with the police officer. Those who do not comply may face additional penalties if a blood alcohol concentration test proves their fault.
In most cases, a field sobriety test will come in the form of the breathalyzer test, the horizontal gaze test, the stand on one leg test, or the walk and turn.
- Breathalyzer Test: The breath test is usually administered through a breathalyzer. The portable breathalyzer allows the police officer to test the subjects BAC while stopped in traffic. The accuracy of the breathalyzer can be challenged especially if it has not been maintained for a prolonged period of time. In most cases, if you fail the breathalyzer test, it will serve as enough probable cause to bring you into a testing facility where you will have your blood tested. Those under the age of 21 are required by law to submit to a breathalyzer test upon request. Keep in mind that if you refuse to take a BAC test while at the police station, you may face more punishments than those who comply. If you are under the age of 21 you may have your driving privileges revoked for a longer period of time for refusing to comply with a BAC test.
- Horizontal Gaze: the police officer will ask you to focus your attention on an object. The police officer will move the object horizontally and as you follow the object the officer is looking for any signs of jerking.
- Stand on One Leg: drivers are asked to stand on one leg for thirty seconds. The police officer will take notice of swaying or hopping during the 30 seconds. Rapid movements may indicate that the driver is impaired.
- Walk and Turn: the driver will take nine heels to toe steps in one direction and return in the same direction.
Failing a test does not mean you are convicted of the crime, however, you will need to provide a blood or urine sample for further examination. As mentioned earlier, examination and collection of a blood or urine sample are regulated by Title 17 of the Code of Regulations. When there is a violation of a Title 17 code, then the evidence used against you becomes unreliable and can therefore not be used in a courtroom. For this reason, when you talk to your attorney you want to make sure you include details about the collection of your blood or urine sample.
At a testing or a police station, you may encounter one of the following most common BAC test used by local law enforcement agencies:
- The Blood Test: A blood test is generally the most accurate out of the three types of BAC tests. For a blood test, the handler will draw one small capsule of blood for testing and one capsule of blood for storing. The second capsule can be requested by a lawyer to conduct a private examination of the blood or urine sample. To request a second examination, your lawyer can file a blood split motion that allows for further examination of the evidence. If the evidence is lost and there cannot be a retest through a blood split motion, then the evidence cannot be used against you.
- The Urine Test: When breath and blood tests are not available at the police station or other testing centers, you may be required to take a urine test. A urine test is considered the least accurate of all the tests. For starters, alcohol may take up to 2 hours to appear in the blood system and can remain in a person’s body for up to 24 hours. This means that by the time you get to the station for a BAC test, the reading will not be as accurate as with other testing methods. As with blood tests, a urine test can easily become contaminated by outside factors. Containers used for the collection of urine or blood must be cleaned with non-alcoholic agents.
DUI Underage Charges
In the state of California, those who are drinking and driving and who are under the age of 21 may face penalties for violating Vehicle Code 23136 (the zero-tolerance policy) or for violating Vehicle Code 23140 (driving with a BAC of at least .05 percent and under the age of 21). Those over the age of 18 who drive with a BAC of .08 percent or higher may risk facing charges for a standard DUI under Vehicle Code 23152.
The “Zero Tolerance” policy makes it unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to operate a motorized vehicle with a BAC of more than 0.01 percent. A person that is charged under VC 23136 will face a year without driving privileges. However, the penalty can increase to up to three years if the subject has a history of drunk driving. On the other hand, violating VC 23136 cannot prevent charges being placed under VC 23152 (standard DUI) or VC 23153 (DUI causing injury). This means that you may be charged for violating other vehicle codes.
The “underage DUI” is not a crime that is punishable with jail time, however, the subject will lose his or her driving privileges for a period of time and may be required to pay certain fines. Under VC 23140 a person under the age of 21 driving with a BAC of 0.05 percent or higher may be charged with an underage DUI. The low-status criminal offense is usually treated with a fine of up to $100, a three-month-long driver education course for a person that is at least 18 years of age, and up to a year of license suspension. Offenders that have a history of driving while under the influence may face a longer driving suspension.
The ‘standard DUI” applies to any person above the age of 18 found driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent. VC 23152 states that it is unlawful for a person to operate a motorized driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or while under the influence of a controlled substance. Additionally, VC 23152 makes it unlawful for a person to operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 percent. Those found in violation of this vehicle code will face up to one year of driving suspension, fines up to one thousand dollars, a drug and alcohol education
program of up to 9 months, up to five years of probation, and a possible 6-month jail sentence. A person over the age of 18 may be charged with a standard DUI if they are found driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
As mentioned earlier, those who are charged under the zero-tolerance policy may still be open to charges for violating VC 23152 and for violating the provisions in VC 23153. Those found in violation of VC 23153 can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. To be
charged with under VC 23153, the prosecuting party needs to prove that you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance and at the same time caused bodily injuries to a person.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor under VC 23153, you may face the following penalties: 1) fines of up to five thousand dollars, 2) up to one year in jail, 3) probation for up to five years, 4) up to 30 months of drug and alcohol education, 5) up to three years of license suspension, and 6) payments to individuals you hurt while driving under the influence. On the other hand a felony under VC 23153 may warrant the following: 1) five years of license suspension,2) up to 30 months of drug and alcohol education, 3) traffic offender status for up to three years, 4) a strike on your criminal record, 5) up to five thousand dollars in fines, 6) up to 10 years in prison depending on the gravity of the injuries, and 7) an additional year in prison for every person involved in the accident.
Driving under the influence is a serious offense for a person under the age of 21. First and foremost, the DUI incident will appear on criminal background records which means it may affect future employment opportunities. In addition, you may not qualify for certain
scholarships based on your criminal record. If you are found driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your best bet is to contact a DUI criminal law attorney.
Fighting your DUI Charges
If you have been charged for driving under the influence of alcohol, you will find that there are a number of ways a criminal law attorney can defend your case. When you speak with a DUI attorney you will want to include as much information as possible so that he or she can fight for all the defenses that may apply to your case.
Some of the following factors can affect a DUI case:
- The police officer has conducted an arrest without enough probable cause
- The breathalyzer has not been maintained or calibrated for a prolonged period of time
- The specialists conducted a blood or urine test with a contaminated capsule
- The specialists have conducted a blood or urine test without enough anticoagulants
- The police officer has failed to conduct an arrest according to the provisions in Title 17
- The driver was not operating the motor vehicle
- The sample of alcohol found in a driver’s mouth was not from alcohol
There are multiple factors that come in to play when dealing with a DUI arrest. First and foremost, a police officer has the duty to tell you your rights. If a police officer fails to abide by the Title 17 procedures, then the arrest is considered unlawful. On the other hand, those testing your blood or urine for blood alcohol concentrations are required to follow certain protocols to ensure the sample is as pure as can be. In some cases, an additional testing of the blood sample has proven that there was a violation of Title 17. Additional tastings can help find if the blood sample has been contaminated by a cleaning agent or if the blood sample has not been treated with enough anticoagulant. Blood samples that do not have the right amount of preservatives can ferment meaning that the blood alcohol concentration reading will be higher.
If you are in San Diego, California, you are welcomed to speak with a San Diego DUI lawyer about your incident. A DUI case should be handled by a professional that can apply the local laws to your case. To learn more about a DUI and the ways in which an attorney can help fight on your behalf, you may contact the 619-535-7150.