Getting a first driver's license can be an important part of a young adult's life. However, with it comes great responsibility. California state law holds young drivers to a higher standard than adults because they are considered high-risk drivers. Being relatively inexperienced drivers, young adults are given little or no tolerance to their unsafe driving habits when pulled over. Just like getting a DUI results in automatic license suspensions for California young adults, getting a drug related charge will result in similar consequences for minors. California's DUI laws treat underage drug charges the same as underage drinking charges and if caught driving with illicit drugs in their system, standard DUI laws apply. Drugs, for the purposes of DUI laws, include a wide range of substances that can impair your driving so the laws apply to recreational drugs and illegal use of prescription or over the counter drugs. Basically, those under 21 who are under the influence of anything while driving can face DUI charges. They will also face having to deal with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Under the California DMV's Administrative Per Se, or APS, program, drivers can have their driver's licenses automatically suspended if caught drinking and driving, varying based on age, BAC level and prior criminal history. Drivers under the age of 21 cannot legally drive with a BAC higher than .01%, while those over 21 cannot drive with a BAC over %.08. As you can see, young adult drivers face much stricter guidelines when it comes to drinking and driving. If caught driving with a BAC over these .01%, drivers under the age of 21 will face an automatic one-year license suspension on their first offense. Second and third offences will result in two and three years of suspension, respectively. Even though .01% seems like a tiny amount of alcohol to have in your system and be criminally convicted, for drug use the guidelines are even stricter. Though drug levels can't be measure on site by a breathalyzer, if found with drugs in your system while driving either through a drug screening test in the field or through blood tests later on, you will get a DUI. This is a strict zero tolerance policy for drug use and driving. This isn't just for minors, driving while under the influence of any drug or impairing substance, no matter what your age, is illegal and grounds for DUI charge. Even if young adults are charged with other alcohol related crimes, like having it in their possession or buying it from someone over 21, can result in a suspension of driving privileges. For any drug related offense, those under 21 will face a one-year license suspension or postponement of their driving privileges, if they do not have a license yet. Only those demonstrating a critical need to have driving privileges may apply to have the ability to drive to and from critical locations, such as school or for emergency medical care for family members. This goes for any drug charge, including but not limited to alcohol possession, drug possession or drug distribution. These charges are very serious and, for those under 21, can significantly affect your young adult life. Certain drug charges must be reported on college applications and, in general, will disqualify you for federal financial aid. It will also result in higher insurance rates, which are already higher when you are a young adult. Drug charges will affect your employability as well. Drug charges are worth fighting if you feel you have a strong defense. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing these charges. A good attorney can evaluate your case facts and advise you on the best legal plan of action that will result in the best-case outcome given the circumstances. For drug possession charges, the prosecution must prove you were in possession of a drug, including alcohol, marijuana, unauthorized prescriptions, speed, narcotics or any number of other controlled substances. Drug possession charges for minors can be either charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances and the purpose of the possession. Penalties can include jail time, fines and penalties, probation, drug and alcohol evaluations, community service and of course, a suspended driver's license. If you feel the circumstances of your case may suggest you are not guilty, contact an attorney to discuss your defense today.
Are your or a loved one facing drug charges as a minor? Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can best advise you on how to proceed with your case and walk away with the best possible outcome. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, every client gets the respect they deserve. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss strategic options for your case.