In California, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious crime. Committing DUI while under the age of 21 is worse. That is why California law is strict on offenders under 21 years who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You can be charged under various laws in Los Angeles, California if caught driving under the influence.
Under California Zero Tolerance law, you can be charged for DUI when your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is 0.01% for underage drivers. For drivers who are above 21, the limit is 0.08% BAC. However, should your BAC be over 0.08%, you will face standard or “adult” DUI charges. If you are charged in Los Angeles, California, and you or your child faces DUI charges, do not hesitate to contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for the best legal representation.
What is Driving Under the Influence Under California Law
According to California law, under section 23152 of the Vehicle Code, it is unlawful to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In Los Angeles, if you are over the age of 18 and have a BAC level of over 0.08%, you can be charged with a standard DUI. A standard DUI means that you are tried as an adult. However, if you are under the age of 21 and caught driving under the influence, you can face additional penalties depending on your BAC. In California, an underage DUI is a serious offense that has serious repercussions.
Determining Your BAC in an Underage DUI Charge
There are three main tests the police use to determine your BAC. They are:
- DUI breath test
- DUI blood test
- Chemical test
DUI Breath Test
In DUI cases, the police use two breath tests to determine if you are driving under the influence. The first test is conducted at the roadside at a routine traffic stop. The test is done with a portable device such as a breathalyzer to determine your alcohol level. The law doesn’t require you to take this test, and you can decline to do so. However, if you are under the age of 21 or are on probation for driving under the influence, it is mandatory to take the test.
If you refuse to take the test when you are below 21 or under DUI probation, your driving privileges will be suspended even if you are not convicted of driving under the influence. The second test is done in the police station after arrest or at a sobriety checkpoint.
Chemical and Blood Tests
Unlike a breath test, the chemical and blood tests are done after being arrested for DUI. Chemical and blood tests are more invasive than a breath test. According to California law, if you are lawfully arrested for DUI, you cannot refuse a chemical or blood test if you do not want to undertake a DUI breath test. However, there are exemptions to this rule though.
If the police officer strongly believes you are driving under the influence of drugs, you will be required to undertake a chemical or blood test. Other instances that might prompt mandatory blood or chemical tests is when the driver is dead or unconscious and If the hospital the driver is being treated at does not have breath testing equipment.
Charges for Violating the “Zero- Tolerance” Law in California
According to section 23136 of the Vehicle Code in California, you can be charged with underage DUI provided a trace of 0.01% of alcohol in your blood system is present. According to the “Zero- Tolerance'' law, you need not be under the influence or impaired to be charged. It’s crucial to understand that according to section 23136 of California law, the alcoholic substance can be from other sources of alcohol, not necessarily an alcoholic drink. Some of these sources might be medicine, syrup, mouthwash, and other oral oils.
Penalties for Violating The “Zero- Tolerance” Law in Los Angeles, California
In California, violating the “Zero- Tolerance” law is considered an infraction. This means that you cannot face jail time, but you will nonetheless face other penalties. When you are convicted of California's offense, the court can revoke your driving license or suspend it for one year. In case you have not yet received your license at the time of the conviction, the Department of Motor Vehicles will delay the release of your driving license for one year upon application.
The officer who arrests you and determines you have violated code 23136 will confiscate your driving license and issue you with one which is valued for 30 days. Suppose you do not contest the decision with the Department of Motor Vehicles within ten days. In that case, the Department will go ahead and suspend or revoke your driving license after the expiry of the 30 days grace period.
Defenses Against Charges Of “Zero-Tolerance” Law Violation in Los Angeles, California
You can present various defenses if you are charged with violating the “Zero-Tolerance” law for underage DUI in Los Angeles, California. You can argue that the alcohol level was a result of other products like medication other than alcohol. You can also argue that your BAC was still rising, and the testing was done while your BAC level was higher than when you were driving. You can also argue that the chemical tests were inaccurate since the readings might be due to your current diet.
Underage Driving Under the Influence with a BAC Level Of 0.05%
According to California Vehicle Code 23410, it is an offense to drive with a BAC of 0.05% or more if you are 21 years or younger. However, according to California law, you cannot be convicted of two or more DUI charges. In case you are driving, and your BAC is more than 0.05%, and you are also under 21 years, you can be charged with Driving under the influence and underage DUI. But you cannot be convicted for both crimes.
Penalties for an Underage Driving Under the Influence with A BAC Level Of 0.05%
When you are charged for violating California Vehicle Code 23410, the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driver’s license for one year. If you have a previous DUI, you will pay a fine of $100 or more, and you have to undergo an alcohol education program for three months if you are 18 and above.
In certain instances, the police can also impound your vehicle. The impound lasts for at least five days. If you have a BAC of 0.10% and above and do not agree to a chemical test, your car will be impounded. Additionally, if you have ever been convicted of underage or standard DUI, your vehicle will also be impounded.
Defenses You Can Use Against Charges for Driving Under the Influence with A BAC Level Of 0.05%
You can present various defenses against the charges for driving under the influence with a BAC level of 0.05% in Los Angeles, California. You can argue that you weren’t driving at the time of the arrest. Your lawyer can also argue that the chemical test was erroneous and your BAC was not more than 0.05%. You can also argue that the Breathalyzer or another handheld device used to test your alcohol level was not properly calibrated, giving the wrong results.
Underage “Standard” DUI charges
It is possible to be charged with a standard or "adult" DUI in California even if you are under 21 under section 23152. You will face the VC 23152 charges when the alcohol or drugs or a combination of both impair you while driving. According to California law, a standard DUI is charged as a misdemeanor, which means it is a crime.
Since a standard DUI is a crime, you will undergo trial for the charges. When you are arrested for drunk driving in California, you will face a trial to determine if you have committed a crime. You will also face a Department of Motor Vehicle hearing if you so wish to determine if your license should be suspended. A DMV officer has the legal authority to suspend your driving license. On the other hand, the court has the authority to impose other serious penalties if found guilty of your crime. That is why it is important to employ a criminal lawyer's services to represent you in a court of law.
If you want a hearing with the DMV, you must request one to contest the suspension of your driver’s license if you are a first-time offender. If you do not request the hearing within ten days of your arrest, your license will be suspended. The DMV will also suspend your license if you lose at the hearing. The DepartmentDepartment suspends your license for six months if you are a first-time offender.
Since a standard DUI charge is a criminal offense, you have to appear in court or send your lawyer to represent you in court during the trial. A DMV hearing is different from a criminal trial and does not affect the trial. If you are to keep your driving license, you must request a DMV hearing and win. You also have to be found not guilty of the charge in the criminal court.
When you are charged with a standard DUI in Los Angeles, you have to appear in court. After you have been charged, you or your attorneys must attend all the criminal case proceedings. At the arraignment, you have the option to either plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
The court in Los Angeles can suspend your driving license and impose other penalties when you are charged with a standard DUI, even if you are under 21. Although a DMV hearing does not affect the criminal charges against you, the DMV can reverse your license suspension if the court acquits you. However, it must be an actual acquittal other than winning on a technicality.
Penalties for First Time Offenders of a Standard DUI Charge
In California, you could face various penalties as a first DUI offender. You can be given three to five years of informal probation. The probation typically lasts for three years. You will also have to pay a fine not exceeding $2,000. The court can sentence you to jail for a maximum of 6 months.
Defenses Against Charges of Driving Under the Influence Where Your BAC Is More Than 0.08%
You can present several defenses in court when you are charged with underage DUI where your BAC level is higher than 0.08%. You can argue that your BAC level was lower at the time of the arrest, and it only read as more than 0.08% because your alcohol level had risen by the time the testing was carried out.
You can further argue that you had residual alcohol in your mouth from a breath freshener or another product apart from alcohol, leading the handheld breath test apparatus to give a falsely higher reading. Another defense you can present in court is that the person doing the testing did not follow the procedures laid out in California law for chemical testing.
Charges for Carrying Alcohol in A Vehicle When You Are Under 21
Under California law section 23224, it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 to carry alcohol in the vehicle. However, there are some exceptions to this law. If you are transporting the alcohol under an adult's supervision or because of work, you cannot be charged with carrying alcohol in a motor vehicle. You can also not be charged under VC 23224 if the container of the alcohol is sealed or closed.
Penalties for Carrying Alcohol in A Vehicle When You Are 21 And Under
If you are convicted under VC 23224, you can face a jail time of up to 6 in county jail. The court can also find you a maximum of $1,000 or impound your vehicle for a maximum of thirty days. It is also possible for the court to find you and impound your vehicle at the same time.
Another penalty the court can institute is the suspension of your driving license for one year. If you have not yet received your driving license, the court might instruct the DMV to delay your driving license issuance for one year.
Defenses Against Charges of Transporting or Possessing Alcohol in The Vehicle While You Are Under 21
You can present various defenses in the court against charges of transporting or possessing alcohol in your vehicle while you are under 21. You can argue that you did not know there was alcohol in the vehicle. Another defense you can present in the court is that you fall under the exemption rules stipulated above stipulated in California law as explained above.
Common Defenses for Underage DUI Charges
You can present various defenses in court to challenge the charges for underage DUI charges. You can argue that you were not driving. This means that although your BAC might have been higher than the stipulated levels, you were in your vehicle but not driving. You can argue that you were relaxing in your car or taking a nap.
Another defense you can present is that the police did not have reason to stop you on your journey. Therefore, even if the police officer found you drunk, they did not stop you from checking your BAC levels. You can also argue that the arresting officer did not inform you clearly and fully of your rights during the arrest.
Another common defense is that the equipment used to measure the Blood Alcohol Concentration was faulty and could not give the correct readings. You can further argue that the person conducting the chemical test did not follow the procedure as stipulated in the California DUI chemical test procedures, which might have affected the test result. The alcohol in your breath was from another source like mouthwash or other medication and not from alcohol consumption.
What the Prosecutor Needs to Prove for You to Be Found Guilty of Underage DUI
For the charge of underage DUI to stick, the prosecutor must prove that you were driving at the time of the arrest. The prosecution must also prove that you were physically controlling the vehicle. They must also prove that you were under the influence of alcohol during this time.
The prosecution also needs to prove that your blood alcohol level was above the stipulated level during the arrest. You were impaired by alcohol if you are being charged under California Law VC 23152.
Under the zero-tolerance law, you can be charged with underage Driving under the influence if your BAC is more than 0.01%. At times, your BAC can be above the legal limit as a result of medication. The prosecution needs to prove that the mediation affected your mental faculty and impaired you to make a sound judgment on the road as a sober person would in similar circumstances.
Call A Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Being charged with underage DUI is a serious offense that can have unpleasant repercussions. You can be charged with underage DUI if you violate the Zero-Tolerance law if your BAC is higher than 0.05% or 0.08%. These charges carry different penalties such as the suspension of your driving license. It is possible in some cases to face jail time. If you find yourself or your loved one facing underage DUI charges in Los Angeles, California, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer at 310-502-1314 for the best legal representation.