Underage DUI Lawyer in Orange County

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At The Law Offices of Hart J. Levin, our underage DUI lawyers in Orange County understand the perilous combination of being under the age of 21 and driving under the influence. Young drivers often lack the experience to gauge their impairment levels accurately, erroneously believing they are fit to drive despite being legally impaired. This is why both California and the nation take underage DUI offenses seriously, and it’s crucial to comprehend the consequences when facing a DUI in Orange County.

With a successful track record of handling over 500 underage DUI cases, we have the capability to avoid criminal convictions in many instances. Additionally, we can assist you in navigating the difficult process of obtaining a critical needs license, allowing you to maintain your ability to drive.

California’s “Zero Tolerance” Law

Drivers who are below the legal age of 21 must maintain a completely alcohol-free blood content while operating a vehicle. Consequently, if an individual under 21 is stopped with even a .01% blood alcohol content (BAC), it constitutes a DUI offense and entails significant consequences. On the other hand, for drivers aged 21 and older, the permissible limit is .08% BAC, making it technically lawful to consume a drink before driving. However, for those under 21, even the consumption of a single drink results in legal impairment and leads to a DUI charge and a one year driver’s license suspension.

What is An Underage DUI?

An underage DUI pertains to individuals cited for DUI while being under the age of 21. In this context, the driver doesn’t necessarily have to exhibit impairment; simply registering a BAC of .01% or higher is sufficient for a DUI charge. Those cited for under 21 DUI face even stricter penalties compared to drivers over 21, as the court specifically aims to impart a challenging lesson to the young driver.

Underage DUIs don’t hinge on the driver’s impairment. Any detectable amount of alcohol (.01% BAC and above) qualifies as grounds for an underage DUI charge. If an underage driver suspected of DUI refuses to undergo a breath test, the consequence is an automatic one-year hard driver’s license suspension, with no provision for commuting to school or work.

Underage DUI Penalties

.05 BAC or Higher

Underage DUI incidents frequently involve young drivers with a BAC level of .08% or higher. The court applies similar penalties to those of drivers aged 21 and older, albeit with more stringent consequences for the underage DUI driver’s license.

The license suspension encompasses one year from both the DMV and the court, in addition to a range of other court-imposed penalties. These may encompass probation, incarceration, mandatory classes, fines, attendance at AA and MADD meetings, participation in Hospital and Morgue classes, community labor, and community service, among other repercussions.

To illustrate, if an underage DUI driver is apprehended with a .12 BAC level, the court deems them automatically “impaired” due to the elevated alcohol level. As a result, the court imposes standard DUI penalties along with additional sanctions specifically tailored for being underage.

.05 BAC or Lower

If a teenager is discovered with a BAC of more than .01%, they face a one-year suspension of their driver’s license. Opting not to undergo the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) or breathalyzer test, or failing either, also results in a one-year suspension. Additionally, individuals may face fines of up to $5,000 and potential charges for a criminal offense or infraction.

In cases of a DUI infraction for those under 21 years old, the penalties mirror those of a Zero Tolerance DUI. A one-year license suspension is imposed for failing a PAS, refusing to take one, or having a BAC of .05% or higher. The associated charges can amount to up to $5000, contingent on age and prior traffic infractions. Individuals aged 18–21 are required to enroll in an alcohol driver education course, incurring an extra fee, and they receive two points on their driver’s license.

Possession of Alcohol by Person Under 21

Having an open container of alcohol in any vehicle, even when the driver is 21 or older, is against the law. However, for drivers under the legal drinking age, possessing ANY alcohol in a vehicle, even if it’s unopened and sealed, is prohibited. If law enforcement pulls over an “underage” driver and discovers alcohol, they will issue a citation for a misdemeanor offense.

This criminal charge can have lasting consequences, permanently affecting the underage driver’s record. It necessitates disclosure as a criminal conviction on applications for employment, housing, and other purposes. Penalties for underage possession of alcohol in a vehicle can range from community service and labor to a maximum of six months in jail. Nonetheless, the likelihood of jail time is minimal for individuals with a clean record. Courts may also impose fines and mandate participation in classes.

Underage DUI Attorney Defenses

Although no one condones underage drinking and driving, there are several effective defenses available to contest the case and safeguard the record of the underage DUI driver. One strategy involves challenging the justification for the police encounter. Valid probable cause, such as the driver committing vehicle code violations like speeding or failing to signal, is required for a lawful vehicle stop. If the basis for the stop is deemed invalid, the case may be dismissed.

Another successful method employed to dismiss underage DUIs involves challenging the results of the breath machine. An underage driver suspected of DUI is obligated to blow into a PAS device (Preliminary Alcohol Screening device), a small breathalyzer typically stored in the trunk of a patrol vehicle.

In our defense against underage DUIs, we specifically question the “PAS coordinator,” the individual responsible for overseeing the maintenance of the machine. Often, we discover instances where the breath machines are not adequately maintained, leading to the potential dismissal of the case.

Underage DUI Restricted License Options

Typically, any underage DUI driver convicted by either the DMV or the court faces a mandatory one-year suspension of their driving privileges. Although a restricted license option is not available for underage DUI drivers, there is an alternative known as a “critical needs license,” which many of our clients pursue. This license serves as an equivalent to a restricted license for underage DUI drivers, permitting travel to and from school, DUI classes, and work.

Securing approval for a critical needs application, however, is a challenging process. The DMV mandates that the underage driver demonstrate a lack of alternative transportation and insufficient public transportation in their area. Both the DMV and the court must independently acknowledge the existence of a “critical need” for the critical needs license to be granted.

Contact Our Orange County Underage DUI Attorneys

Our expertise lies in managing DUI and underage DUI cases. The repercussions of an underage DUI can profoundly impact the life and driving privileges of a young driver. If you are currently facing such a situation, reach out to our Orange County DUI attorneys for a complimentary discussion of your options.

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