When it comes to juvenile drunk driving laws, California has some of the strictest laws in the country. Minors can be arrested and charged with a California DUI if they have even the slightest trace of alcohol in their system. This is known as a Zero Tolerance policy and it is one of the most laws most frequently violated by minors. If you are a minor who has been charged with driving under the influence or the parent of a teen facing DUI charges, contact a San Diego underage DUI lawyer as soon as possible.
Underage Drivers and Traffic Stops
When you are under 21 and pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, you have many of the same rights as adult drivers. This means you are not required to provide any information other than that regarding your identity, insurance information and age. You do not need to, and in most cases should not, tell the officer where you were, where you are going, what you have been doing before driving and if you have been drinking.
If a police officer believes you are intoxicated, he will likely ask you to submit to a field sobriety test. Because these are highly unreliable, they are not legally required and you should always refuse to take them. On the other hand, if you an underage driver who has been asked to take a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS), you must take these, despite the fact that adults are not legally required to do so. If the you refuse, you will face a mandatory driver’s license suspension. You are also required to take a chemical blood alcohol test if asked to do so, just like all drivers under the state’s implied consent law. This could be either a blood or breath test and the choice will be up to you. Failure to take either a blood or breath test so will also result in a mandatory driver’s license suspension.
Consequences for Minors who Receive a DUI
If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .01% or higher, you will face underage drinking charges and you may lose your driving privileges for one year and your case will be sent to traffic court, where you could face hefty fines. If you are under 21 and charged with a DUI in California and your BAC is .05% or greater, then your case will be handled in the criminal court, where you could face serious fines, be forced to enroll in a DUI course and lose your license for one year. If your BAC was above 0.08%, then you may be charged with an adult DUI and you will face all the penalties that this serious crime entails.
You can also face enhanced penalties if you were driving at excessive speeds while under the influence, caused an accident due to negligent driving, have a minor under 18 in the car with you
As a minor, you can even lose your driver’s license for drinking and biking or for having an open alcoholic container in your vehicle. Whereas adults who receive a DUI can often obtain a restricted driver’s license, it is very difficult for minors to obtain these types of licenses unless they can show that they will face significant hardship due to the continued loss of their driver’s license.
A DUI conviction could hamper your chances of being accepted into the college or job of your choice as this offense can appear on your DMV or criminal record. It can also leave you ineligible for a number of scholarships and college grants. If you, or your juvenile child, has been accused of driving under the influence, contact a skilled underage DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Fighting the Charges
The results from a PAS device are always worth fighting because the officer who arrested you will have to show that their device was working properly at the time you were arrested and that they had the qualification to administer such a test. If they cannot prove both of these things, then the evidence will not be admitted into court. This is quite different from the regular breathalyzer test, which is generally presumed to be valid. This is why it is so critical that anyone under the age of 21 always work with an experienced underage DUI lawyer.
Even if you took a breathalyzer, you can still fight the results as part of your criminal defense strategy as breath tests can be affected by such things as a fever, a low carb diet, using hand sanitizer, drinking kombacha or diet soda, or even diabetes. This is particularly true if your BAC was just over .01%, .05% or .08% as a small decrease in your BAC related to a factor such as these could result in your facing drastically reduced penalties.
It is worth noting that you can still get a DUI in San Diego if you drive under the influence of marijuana although there is no minimum amount which will trigger an arrest. A if you are over 18 and/or have a medical marijuana license, this is not a legal defense to driving under the influence of marijuana.
If you are ready to fight the charges by speaking with Peter M. Liss, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.