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Drivers under the age of 21 in California are subject to the same consequences of drivers who are 21 and older if they get a DUI charge. The situation is more severe, however, for underage drivers because the BAC they must meet to establish intoxication is below the legal limit for of-age drivers. Additionally, getting a DUI conviction at an age where many young adults seek higher education can impact their odds of being accepted by their preferred institutions.
If you get a DUI in California and haven’t turned 21, you are liable for the same penalties as legal adults, even though the State of California defines underage DUI differently. The moment you learn of your DUI charge, you should contact an aggressive DUI defense lawyer to protect your rights and future.
California has a Zero Tolerance DUI law that establishes various penalties according to how much alcohol you have in your system. Generally, “zero tolerance” policies lead to harsh consequences that don’t allow for mitigating factors based on a specific case. Young adults may face harsher consequences at lower blood alcohol levels than adults who are at least 21 years old.
California’s Zero Tolerance DUI Law
Across the United States — with the exception of Utah — you may be found guilty of DUI if your BAC or blood alcohol content is at least 0.08%. This is not the case for drivers who are not yet 21 years of age. In California, drivers with any detectable amount of alcohol in their systems at the time of a DUI arrest may face a criminal charge.
Here is a list of potential consequences for varying BAC levels or impairment in California:
- BAC of 0.01% or higher: This BAC would not lead to a criminal DUI charge if you were 21 or older. However, this is considered the “zero tolerance” policy in a place of employment, so if you have a BAC of 0.01% at work you may face non-criminal consequences at your job.
- BAC of 0.05% or higher: This BAC would not count as a DUI if you were 21 or older; however, for underage drinkers, this may lead to a criminal charge. If you’re convicted, you may face:
- A license suspension for one year
- Fines & fees
- A requirement to attend a 3-month DUI course paid by you
- BAC of 0.08% or higher: A 0.08% is the legal limit in most states for drivers 21 and older. An underage drinker with a BAC of 0.08% or higher will face the same penalties for DUI as an of-age adult if they’re convicted. Penalties for DUI in California include:
- Up to six months of jail or juvenile custody
- Thousands of dollars in fines and court fees
- A mandated 3-9 month DUI course
- Driver’s license suspension
- Probation is possible
- Impaired driving: You do not need to have a specific level of alcohol in your bloodstream to be found impaired while driving. Impaired driving is dangerous, and the police may arrest you regardless of how much you had to drink. Impaired driving may count as a DUI charge on its own without a specific BAC attached to it. You may face the same penalties as you would for a DUI with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
How an Underage DUI Can Damage Your Future
There are consequences for DUI that reach far beyond the criminal penalties. In fact, for many people who have been convicted of DUI, the non-criminal penalties tend to carry more weight than the criminal ones. Criminal penalties will eventually end. You will eventually pay off court fees, complete a mandatory DUI course, get your license back, and complete a jail sentence if you are sentenced to one. However, long-term consequences can make life more challenging, particularly for individuals who have not turned 21.
Below are examples of how a DUI charge can affect impact your life:
- Colleges may ask about an applicant’s criminal history on their admissions applications. You must disclose your DUI when applying to colleges that pose this question. They may take your criminal history into consideration when deciding whether to accept you into their program. A DUI may jeopardize your chances of getting into the school of your dreams.
- Employers typically ask about criminal charges on their applications. You must disclose your DUI on these applications. Again, you may lose a job opportunity because of your DUI charge.
- Auto insurance rates for drivers with a DUI are generally much steeper than for drivers considered “safe.” If you’re convicted of DUI in California, your rates will likely skyrocket because you will suddenly be considered a “high risk” driver. Some insurance providers may even refuse to insure you.
- Landlords may also conduct background checks when leasing to new tenants. A DUI conviction could hurt your chance of living wherever you want to in California. This is critical at an age where many are moving away from their parents’ homes to build their own lives.
Aggressive DUI Defense in San Diego
When you need a competent, aggressive, and persistent DUI attorney to build a strong defense, contact attorney Dod of Dod Law. He has more than 17 years of experience fighting DUI charges and helping young people protect their future. Attorney Dod has worked on more than 6,500 criminal cases in and near San Diego and has a 10.0 “Superb” Avvo rating. Call (619) 333-5134 for a free consultation today or complete our contact form.