California Underage DUI Penalties

If a person is stopped by police in California and they are under the age of 21, they can face penalties for having any amount of alcohol in their system. Since alcohol is not legal for anyone under 21, lawmakers have special penalties for underage drivers in order to discourage the practice of drinking and driving.

California's Zero Tolerance Policy Penalties

California has a policy that drivers who are underage cannot operate a vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. This means that a minor who has half of a beer and drives, can be arrested for underage DUI. The penalties of which are not as steep as those of a regular DUI. In fact, it is not a criminal charge but rather a civil charge that is handled by the DMV.

Under vehicle code section 23136, a person under the age of 21 with a BAC of .01% or more will face the following penalties:

  • One year of license suspension
  • Driving under the influence education for a minimum of 3 months
  • An additional 1-3 years of license suspension for refusing a chemical sobriety test (drivers under 21 are considered to have consented to taking these tests and any refusal will lead to penalty)

Underage DUI Penalties in California

In cases where a driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit for adults (.08%) but still is high enough to suggest the driver had consumed a significant amount of alcohol, there is another underage DUI charge. California vehicle code section 23140 explains that a driver who is under 21 and has a BAC of .05% will face the following penalties:

  • One year of license suspension
  • A minimum of 30 days of alcohol and/or drug education
  • The following fines:
    • First offense in one year: $100
    • Second offense in one year: $200
    • Third offense in one year: $300

California Under 21 DUI Penalties

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a crime that anyone can commit, including underage drivers. California's zero tolerance policy applies to all drivers under 21 who are arrested for DUI. But this does not mean that a person under 21 will get lighter treatment. In fact, they will actually receive harsher treatment in many cases because they violated the DUI law and the zero tolerance law.

Underage drivers who are stopped and have a BAC or .08% or more or are under the influence of drugs will face the regular charges and consequences of a normal DUI charge. These penalties are as follows:

Violation of vehicle section code 23152 – driving under the influence for a first time offender

  • Three to five years of probation
  • A fine of not less than $390 and not more than $1000
  • Alcohol or drug DUI education
  • A minimum of 96 hours of jail time

Violation of vehicle section code 23152 – driving under the influence and causing injury

  • 5 days to one year of jail time
  • Probation for three to five years
  • A fine of not less than $390 and not more than $5000
  • Alcohol or drug DUI education
  • Pay restitution to injured parties

If an underage driver is involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death because of their alcohol or drug intoxication, this is considered a felony DUI charge. Felony convictions result in up to 4 years in jail plus extra time if numerous people were injured and driver's license revocation.

Youthful Drunk Driver Visitation Program Act

In addition to the penalties listed above, any underage DUI offender can also be sentenced to participate in a program called The Youthful Drunk Driver Visitation Program. This program was started on the assumptions that:

  • Young drivers do not realize the consequences of drinking and driving or taking drugs and driving other than it is illegal.
  • People who use alcohol or drugs at a young age are more likely to become dependent on them and abuse them as an adult
  • Conviction of a DUI offense at a young age is an indication of future bad decisions when it comes to drinking and driving

For these reasons, California has begun a program that takes underage offenders to an emergency room trauma center. Usually, this will happen in the late night hours of a weekend so that the young offenders can see the results of serious car accidents that occurred due to drunk drivers. The program advises offenders be shown patients on life support, patients recovering from surgery, patients who are disabled or lost limbs due to accidents and finally, the morgue. The program concludes with a discussion about what was seen and why driving while intoxicated is a bad idea.

California Underage DUI Defense Attorney

If you or your child has been arrested for driving while intoxicated and you are concerned about the penalties, call us now. Our attorneys are here to help you get the results that you want. When you call our firm, you will speak with a DUI lawyer who can explain these penalties in detail and what kind of outcome you can expect.


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