While most people know it’s a crime in California to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, there are several other DUI-type crimes you should be aware of, including DUI under 21.
If you are a driver under the age of 21, it is a criminal offense to drive with a blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) of 0.01% or higher, commonly known as an “underage DUI” or “zero tolerance” DUI. A driver under the age of 21 may not drive with any measurable or detectable amount of alcohol. This does not just include alcoholic beverages. It includes alcohol which may come from common cold remedies such as cough syrup, and some prescription drugs.
Rationale Behind DUI Under 21
Why the stringent laws? Because lawmakers have been concerned of late that that underage drinkers are prone to binge drinking. In fact, a recent study has found that the BAC of intoxicated underage car accidents is, on average, five times the legal limit and underage drinkers are more reckless and less likely to wear seatbelts.
California Laws Covering DUI Under 21
Underage drivers who drink and/or use drugs can be charged under a number of different California laws. In an underage DUI arrest, you may be charged under several applicable sections – even if the charges seem duplicative.
- Vehicle Code 23136 – underage driving with a BAC of .01% or greater (“zero tolerance law”);
- Vehicle Code 23140 – underage driving with a BAC of .05% or greater (sometimes called “underage DUI” or “under age DUI”);
- Vehicle Code 23152 – driving (at any age) while (“adult” or “standard DUI”):
- actually impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, or
- with a BAC of .08% or greater;
- Vehicle Code 23224 – possession of alcohol in a vehicle.
Driver’s License Suspension
If you’re under 21 it is important to note that a conviction for a DUI or any of the above laws could impact more than just your wallet and your freedom. There are harsh consequences on your ability to drive. A conviction of any of the above results in a one year “hard” suspension of your driver’s license. The only available avenue is to apply to the DMV for a critical need driver’s license permitting you a restricted driver’s license to drive to and from work or to and from school. They are not easy to obtain.
Finally, fines, fees, jail and licensing issues are not the only thing that may be affected. You may be required to disclose an underage DUI to colleges and universities in their applications.
Given the severity of the consequences for underage DUI, it’s important to consult with a competent DUI attorney who can help defend and navigate the complexities of underage DUI law.