Underage DUI

Drinking and driving will always increase the risk of a serious accident or injury. If you’re under the age of 21, then the chances of being in a severe crash increase even more after drinking. Especially in the state of California. According to driving fatality data from Responsibility.org, California’s percentage of underaged alcohol-impaired driving fatalities is 28 percent. That’s 4 percent higher than the national average of 24 percent.

To combat these startling statistics, the state of California has passed stringent underage DUI laws. Ingesting even the smallest amount of alcohol in California (only above .01 % BAC) could result in a zero tolerance DUI. The blood-alcohol concentration threshold is so low for underage drivers that in fact taking cough syrup or a mouth numbing ointment before driving could raise BAC levels above .01 %. That means you could be charged with DUI while underage even if you never took a sip of an alcoholic drink.

If you or someone you know has been charged with underaged DUI, we urge you to seek legal representation as soon as possible.

Underage DUI Attorney in Ventura, California

Most know how serious it is to drink and drive in the state of California. But, did you know that if you have even .01 % BAC as a minor, you’ll face consequences for underaged drinking? Yes, it’s true. That is why it’s highly recommended you seek legal counsel if you’ve been arrested for underaged driving in the state of California.

For experienced and skilled legal representation, call Jay Leiderman Law. Jay Leiderman has 20 years of experience dedicated to criminal defense he can utilize for your case. He can assess the facts of your case and build a formidable defense designed to undermine the prosecution. To learn more about his practice, call his office at (805) 654-0200 to set up your first consultation.

Jay Leiderman Law accepts clients throughout Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, and Van Nuys as well as other surrounding cities including Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Ojai, Simi Valley, Santa Barbara, Solvang, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta, Isla Vista, and Montecito.

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Zero Tolerance Laws in California

In an effort to stop underage drinking and driving, the state of California has imposed a “zero tolerance” law. The law can be found under Vehicle Code 23136, which states it’s a civil offense for anyone under the age of 21 to drive with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01% or higher. In comparison, a standard DUI has a BAC threshold of .08 or higher. The BAC amount for an underage DUI is so low that even consuming the following could raise it above .01%.

  • Topical mouth numbing ointment
  • Homeopathic medicine
  • Cough syrup or nighttime cold medicine

If you’re pulled over on suspicion of underage DUI, then law enforcement will likely ask you to undergo a preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS). These are roadside tests given on either a breathalyzer or another similar device designed to test a breath, blood, or urine sample. Driver over the age of 21 have the option to bypass PAS testing. However, underage drivers are implicitly deemed to have already given consent to a PAS test under California law.

Essentially, this means refusing a PAS test is an administrative violation. You won’t be criminally charged for refusing the test, but your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for one year. You’ll also be ineligible for a restricted hardship license if you refused a PAS test.


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Consequences of Drinking and Driving Under 21 in CA

It’s important to note that zero tolerance laws in California apply whether the driver was actually impaired by alcohol or not while driving. Unlike a standard DUI, an underage driver violates the law by simply having any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. So, the penalties for zero tolerance DUI in California is determined by the driver’s BAC level.

DUI with a BAC of .01 or higher in California

The lowest threshold for an underage DUI in California is a measly .01 % BAC. This is such a low blood-alcohol concentration that you could meet it by simply ingesting some cough syrup before driving. Having a BAC of .01 or higher is a violation of VC 23136, but it’s not considered a criminal offense. Instead, those with a BAC higher than .01% will face an administrative penalty.

The punishment for violating VC 23136 is a one-year mandatory suspension of your license. However, this is for your first offense. If you have a criminal history of violating drunk driving laws, then your license could be revoked for up to three years.

DUI with BAC of .05 or Higher in California

The penalties for underage DUI ramp up if you have a blood-alcohol concentration of .05 % or higher. However, you’re still unlikely to face jail time for a DUI of this level. Violation of this law under VC 23140 will result in a minor infraction, which is a low-level criminal offense similar to a traffic ticket.

If you’re convicted of driving with a BAC of .05 or higher, then you may face:

  • A one-year driver’s license suspension
  • A fine of up to $100
  • If you’re at least 18, then you’ll also take a mandatory alcohol education program for at least three months

Underage DUI with BAC of .08 or Higher in California

You may be wondering, can a person under the age of 21 face an “adult” DUI? The answer is unfortunately yes. Underage drivers can be charged with a standard DUI if:

  • The driver is mentally and physically impaired due to alcohol or drugs; and
  • They had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher

If no one sustains a serious injury because of the DUI, then the crime is a misdemeanor. Penalties for a first-time DUI include:

  • One-year driver’s license suspension
  • Three to five years of informal probation
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • An alcohol or drug education program for three or nine months
  • In some cases, up to 6 months in jail

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Additional Resources

Underage DUI Laws in California – Visit the official website for the California Legislature to read up on their laws regarding underage DUI. Access the site to learn what happens if you refuse a PAS test as a minor, the police procedures during a PAS test, and penalties for underage DUI.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving | MADD Southern California  – Visit the official website for Mothers Against Drunk Driving to learn about their chapter based in southern California. Access the site to read underage DUI statistics regarding accidents a day, injuries per year, and DUI-related deaths per year.


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DUI Attorney for Drivers Under 21 in Ventura County, CA

For more information about zero tolerance laws in California and what to do if you’re charged, contact Jay Leiderman Law. Our criminal defense attorney Jay Leiderman has been representing minors caught up in DUI charges for decades. He can apply his knowledge, resources, and skills to build a sturdy defense for you and your charges.

Call Jay Leiderman Law today at (805) 654-0200. We accept clients throughout the greater Ventura County area and surrounding counties including Santa Barbara County and Van Nuys.


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