Underage Drunk Driving in California

Posted by Steven R. AndradeSep 23, 20210 Comments

California takes drunk driving seriously. A driver arrested on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence could lose money, their license, and even their freedom. For underage drivers, even a small amount of alcohol could result in a criminal charge. In fact, there are specialized DUI laws in place that those under the legal drinking age (21 years old) should know. Our Santa Barbara DUI defense lawyers explain the key things that you should know about underage drunk driving charges in California. 

Underage DUIs in California: An Overview of the Law

In California, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Any driver with a BAC above the legal limit can be charged with drunk driving. That being said, the 0.08 blood alcohol limit is only for drivers who are of the legal drinking age in a personal vehicle. Commercial drivers and underage drivers are subject to a more strict legal standard. In fact, there are two specialized criminal statutes for underage DUIs: 

  • The Zero Tolerance Policy for Underage Drivers: California has a strict zero tolerance alcohol policy for underage drivers. An underage driver found with virtually any amount of alcohol in their system could lose their license. Under California Vehicle Code Section § 23136, an underage driver can be cited for a DUI if their BAC is 0.01 or higher. A conviction under this section of California law carries a one-year driver's license suspension. 
  • The 0.05 BAC or Higher Law for Underage Drivers: The state also imposes enhanced penalties for underage drivers found to be more highly intoxicated. Under California Vehicle Code Section § 23140, a young driver can be cited for a DUI if their BAC is 0.05 or higher. Similar to the previous statute, a conviction under this section of California law carries a one-year driver's license suspension. However, it also requires mandatory alcohol education training and a $100 fine. 

To be clear, these criminal statutes impose additional potential liability on underage drivers. An underage driver arrested with a BAC of 0.08 can and will still be charged with a standard adult DUI offense. An adult drunk driving charge can carry a driver's license, significant financial benefits, mandatory alcohol education, and up to six months in jail. Underage drivers may also face other consequences—potentially from the college or place of employment. 

Call Our Santa Barbara, CA DUI Defense Attorneys for Immediate Help 

At Andrade Law Offices, our Santa Barbara DUI defense lawyers provide aggressive, effective legal advocacy. With specialized experience representing college students facing DUI charges, we are committed to protecting the rights of our clients. Call us now or reach out to us using our online contact form for a fully confidential review of your case. With a law office in Santa Barbara, we serve communities throughout all of Santa Barbara County.