Young drivers in the state of California are given specific limitations as provisionary drivers. These limitations are meant to ensure the safety of not only the driver, but everyone on the roads. Among the list of restrictions these drivers face is a Zero Tolerance Law on underage drinking and driving. This can easily lead to an underage DUI charge for the driver—as well as serious consequences.
At San Diego DUI Attorney, we aim to help anyone who faces an underage DUI charge under the Zero Tolerance Law. With our highly skilled and knowledgeable staff, we can assist anyone who may face these charges, or any other charges relating to underage DUI offense.
What is California’s Zero Tolerance Law?
It is illegal for people under 21 to consume alcohol, and when driving is mixed in, matters become more serious. As defined by California Vehicle Code (CVC) 23136, the state of California has a Zero Tolerance Law for underage people who drink and drive.
The law specifically states that for drivers under 21, it is a violation to drive with a .01% or greater blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). This means that underage drivers cannot have any measurable alcohol in their system while operating a vehicle. Also, drivers under the age of 21 cannot not possess alcohol within their vehicle. Since young drivers are less experienced in driving and can be easily affected by alcohol, provisionary limitations such as this are placed to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.
If you are 21 or under, and you have been legally detained and tested with a BAC level of .01% or more, then you can be charged with an underage DUI under the Zero Tolerance Law.
As outlined in CVC 23600, drivers who are on probation from previous DUI offenses are also subjected to the Zero Tolerance Law. However, if they are over 21, then they cannot have a BAC of .04% or greater.
- Brian, 18-years-old, drinks a single beer at a party, then drives home. He is pulled over and has a BAC of .01%. He can be charged with an underage DUI.
- The police pull over Sam, 19-years-old, for driving over the speed limit. They find an opened bottle of alcohol in his car. Even though he did not drink it, he can be charged with an underage DUI.
- Brenda is on probation from a past DUI offense, and she is caught driving with a BAC of .06%. She can be charged with a DUI under the Zero Tolerance Law.
How is this Different from a Regular DUI Offense?
In a regular, or adult, DUI offense, the driver can be charged if their blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or greater, or if it can be proven that the driver was in any way impaired when driving with alcohol in their system.
The Zero Tolerance Law applies to drivers under 21. Since drinking is illegal for persons under 21, any measurable amount of alcohol can lead to a DUI charge—hence, the “Zero Tolerance.” An underage driver does not have to be impaired to be charged with an underage DUI in California. This meaning the more restrictive blood-alcohol concentration of .01% or greater applies to all drivers under 21, or if they have previously faced a DUI charge.
A DUI offense under the Zero Tolerance Law applies to:
- Drivers under the legal drinking age of 21, or
- Drivers on probation from a previous DUI charge
- Have a .01% or greater BAC,
- Refuse to take a chemical test, or
- Fail to complete the test.
In other words, if you are a driver impacted by the Zero Tolerance Law, then any amount of alcohol in your system will lead to a DUI offense.
In the state of California, drivers face serious penalties if charged with a DUI. However, under the Zero Tolerance Law, drivers can face more serious punishments.
Drivers Under 21
Since drinking under the age of 21 is illegal in the state of California, if an underage driver is found with any alcohol in their system then they can face serious penalties. If charged with a DUI in this provisionary phase, their driver’s license can be revoked and suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Depending on the driver’s BAC levels, they can face various penalties, such as:
- Driver’s license is suspended for one (1) year
- $100 fine for first offense
- Attendance at an alcohol education program for up to three (3) months, if over the age of 18
An underaged driver can also face these penalties if they possess an open bottle of alcohol in their vehicle. If the driver has multiple DUI offenses, then their license can be suspended for up to two (2) or three (3) years.
If your BAC is .08% or higher, then you can be charged with an adult, or regular, DUI offense regardless of age, as outlined in CVC 23152. Since this is an adult charge, the penalties are more serious and can include: up to six (6) months in county jail, fines up to $1,000, up to five (5) years of informal probation, alcohol/or drug education, and driver’s license suspension. Remember: the higher the BAC level, the higher the offense and, thus, the punishment.
- The police pull over Brian, an 18-year-old. His BAC reads at .15%. Since he is under the legal drinking age, and is over the standard legal limit, he can be charged with an adult DUI.
Drivers on DUI Probation
If you have previously been charged with a DUI, then there are many restrictions and procedures that come with being on probation. As outlined in CVC 23600(b)(1), drivers on probation cannot have any alcohol in their system while operating a vehicle. Legally, this means the driver on probation cannot have a BAC of .04% or higher as determined by a test.
If you are on probation and have been caught under the influence of alcohol while driving, then your probation status can be revoked. However, in order to avoid this penalty, you can spend no less then 48 hours in county jail. Besides this, the driver faces an automatic one (1) year driver’s license suspension. This can also lead to increased fines for the driver.
Related Charges and Penalties
DUI cases can vary depending on the circumstances. While the Zero Tolerance Law mainly applies to drivers under 21, any driver can receive a DUI charge and face the respective penalties. Similar and related charges to these types of cases may include standard (or adult) DUI, test refusal, underage possession of alcohol, or a DUI causing injury or death.
Standard DUI Charge
Among the initial related charges is a standard DUI offense. As outlined in CVC 23152, this is a more common type of DUI offense that applies to drivers 21 and older. However, this is different from a DUI offense under the Zero Tolerance Law in that the driver’s BAC can be no more than .08%. (Remember: under the Zero Tolerance Law, the BAC can be no higher than .01%.)
The penalties from a standard DUI offense are more serious and can include: up to six (6) months in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, up to five (5) years of informal probation, alcohol/drug education, and a driver’s license suspension. For a second or subsequent offense, the penalties are increased. This means longer time spent in jail and more fines.
It is also important know that if you are under 21 but have a BAC of .08% or more, you can be charged with a standard, or adult, DUI due to the dangerous level of alcohol.
Under CVC 13353.1, if you are under 21, or on probation from a previous DUI, then it is illegal to refuse a DUI test, such as the PAS test—even before you can be arrested. If this occurs, you can be charged with chemical test refusal. This can lead to a license suspension for up to one (1) year, and possibly jail time.
Possession of Alcohol
Under CVC 23224, it is illegal for drivers under 21 to possess alcohol in their vehicle. However, it is allowed if the alcohol is unopened, if an adult accompanies the underaged driver, or if it is required for their job.
This is a misdemeanor charged and can lead to impoundment of vehicle for up to 30 days, a fine of up to $1,000, and one (1) year driver’s license suspension.
DUI Causing Injury or Death
It is common for drivers under the influence to cause accidents on the roadway. If so, you may also be charged with a DUI causing injury and vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated. Even underage drivers can face these charges if such events do occur.
Under CVC 23153, it is a crime to drive under the influence and to have injured another person. This can lead to a license suspension, fines, and jail time.
Under California Penal Code 191.5(b), a driver commits vehicle manslaughter if they are driving under the influence and accidentally kill another person. This can lead to a license suspension. If a misdemeanor, the driver faces up to one (1) year in county jail. If a felony, the driver faces sixteen (16) months, two (2), or four (4) years in state prison.
What Needs to Be Proven?
For any DUI case, the court needs to prove that you were the person operating the vehicle, and that you were under the influence, or intoxicated. If the court can prove these elements, then you can be found guilty in the court of law.
To be convicted of a DUI under the Zero Tolerance Law, you need to have been under the age of 21 at the time of the incident. For these drivers, if there is any measurable amount of alcohol in their system, then can be easily convicted of a DUI.
In the state of California, you must have been driving at the time of the charge. If you did have a BAC of .01% or greater in your system, but you were not actually driving, then you cannot be charged with a DUI. However, you may be charged with underage drinking.
In order to prove one’s state of intoxication, the court may use the results of a chemical test. If the court produces a BAC result of .01% or higher, then you can be convicted of an underage DUI.
To be convicted of a DUI under the Zero Tolerance Law, you need to be:
- Under 21-years-old,
- Driving, and
- Have a BAC of .01% or greater.
Despite the stringent nature of an underage DUI under the Zero Tolerance Law, there are defenses that can be used to dropped these charges.
If the underage driver was not actually driving a vehicle, then they cannot be charged.
If the driver was not lawfully detained, stopped without probable cause, or not informed of their rights, then the driver cannot be legally charged with an underage DUI.
Inaccurate BAC Results
If improper procedures were used during a DUI test, or if the BAC measuring equipment malfunctioned, then the driver cannot be charged. Also, if the results of the BAC tests are “too-close-to-call" then the charges may be dropped.
If it can be proven that other factors affected the driver’s BAC levels (such as: “rising blood alcohol,” medical conditions, certain diets, and alcohol from mouthwash or medicine), then these charges can be dropped.
Finding a DUI Attorney Near Me Who Can Help
A DUI can lead to serious punishment. As outlined in the Zero Tolerance Law, an underage DUI can lead an even more serious punishment. At San Diego DUI Attorney, we are prepared to help you, or any one you may know, with an underage DUI offense. As one of the top DUI defense firms in the San Diego area, we can lend a helping hand to anyone who finds themselves in a serious situation. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices at 619-535-7150. Our highly qualified and professional staff are here to help you.