When it comes to California DUI laws, there are varying levels of tolerance with which California views drinking and driving. It is not illegal in and of itself to drive with alcohol in your system, so it can be said that there is a certain amount of tolerance towards driving after having been drinking. DUI laws are clear and stringent on just how much tolerance is given and to whom. The law provides no tolerance for those driving unsafely while under the influence of any amount of drugs and/or alcohol or for those driving with blood alcohol content levels over the legal limit. The legal blood alcohol content, or BAC, limit varies based on age, class of vehicle the defendant was driving, and the defendant's prior DUI or wet reckless offense history. For adults over the age of 21 with no previous DUI offenses in the last ten years, the legal BAC limit is .08%. For commercial drivers over the age of 21, the legal BAC limit is much less, .04%. Drivers under the legal drinking age of 21, however, face the strictest regulations; the legal limit for underage drivers is .01%. These young drivers are subject to what is called the zero-tolerance DUI law.
This zero-tolerance law provides that there is no tolerance for drinking and driving when the driver is underage. If your BAC is above .01%, you can face a DUI charge and your license will be suspended for one year. You could also lose your license for one year if you refuse to take a preliminary alcohol screening, or PAS, test or if you fail to complete it. The zero-tolerance law for underage drivers means that all underage drivers driving under the influence of any alcohol will face a DUI charge. The penalties for a DUI are not age specific; they are generally the same for both those under 21 and those older than 21. The main difference being that underage drivers will face a longer license suspension because their license is provisional. For a first-time DUI charge, defendants will face up to six months in a county jail, a fine of up to $1,000 plus additional fees, an order to complete a DUI education program at a cost to them, plus typically three years of summary probation. In some counties, Los Angeles, Tulare, Alameda, and Sacramento, a first-time DUI charge also results in an order to install an ignition interlock device, or IID, in all vehicles you own or drive. This will be necessary in order for your license to be reinstated. The California DMV will suspend your license for only 6 months if you are over 21 years of age and if you complied with the BAC testing. If you are under 21 years of age, however, your license will be suspended for one year for a first offense. Your license will be completely revoked for two years upon a second offense within ten years and revoked for three years for a third or subsequent offense within ten years. And, to have your license reinstated by the DMV, you will have to provide an SR-22 insurance certificate filing and pay a reinstatement fee. An SR-22 certificate is provided by your insurer and acts as proof that you are insured as a high-risk driver. Your current insurance company may raise your rates, drop your policy, or choose to not renew your policy because of your DUI conviction. As you can see, the zero-tolerance law has harsh repercussions for underage drivers. Not only are underage drivers granted no leniency when it comes to drinking and driving, but they will face all the same consequences a DUI defendant over 21 years of age would.
If you are underage and facing DUI charges, you should speak with an experienced California DUI defense attorney immediately. Underage DUI charges are just as serious as regular DUI charges; both will effect negative consequences in your life to include fines, jail time, and a license suspension. An attorney can evaluate your case facts and advise you on what consequences you may face. He or she can also help you prepare a strategic defense that may result in a lesser sentence or a dropped charged. Getting a DUI while you are still underage will prevent you from driving and will raise your insurance rates for years to come. Young drivers face strict standards, but there are dedicated DUI defense attorneys who can help you defend your rights in court.
Are you or a loved one facing underage DUI charges? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team. Experienced in DUI laws, our Visalia area legal team can ensure you take the right steps towards fighting your charges. Attorney Martens has been a defense attorney for over ten years and will not be afraid to take your case to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.