If you are arrested when driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you are charged with a Driving Under Influence(DUI) charge. In California, the illegality of driving under the influence is explained under California’s vehicle code 23152. Remember, you can be charged with DUI even with no present drugs in your vehicle, but you have been found under the influence of these substances. The law allows adults above 21 years to drive with a percentage of 0.079% of alcohol per their bloodstream as long as it does not affect your driving, but for minors below 21 years, the law is more strict because the legal age to purchase alcohol is 21 years old.
Having a skilled attorney on your defense is crucial because all your charges may be dropped or charged with the least penalties. The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm has successfully defended minors accused of driving under the influence. Our approach to these cases is unique and aggressive; that is why we have an excellent record of winning cases.
What Does Blood Alcohol Content Mean?
In California, before being convicted of DUI, an exact blood alcohol concentration should be tested. Alcohol affects people differently, and many factors lead to different blood alcohol concentrations in each person. Some of these factors include weight, height, medical conditions, gender, amount of alcohol consumed, a person's strength, the amount of food eaten, and the time passed since the consumption. If the police stop you and decline to take a field sobriety test, the police will often ask for your blood and urine sample to test your blood alcohol concentration.
- Blood test — Blood test has the most accurate results of blood alcohol content. Blood is usually drawn from your body into two tiny capsules. The officials typically test blood in one cap immediately and store the other one. An experienced attorney can ask for a private test for the stored sample using a blood split motion.
- Urine test — Because it is not accurate as of the blood test, the urine test is mainly used when blood tests and breath tests are not applicable. The bladder can store alcohol consumed long ago and has no current effect on your body and does not affect your driving in any way. Although Title 17 of the California code regulations notes describes the correct order of urine collection and testing, it is not advisable to use a urine test when measuring the blood alcohol concentration in a person's system.
Field Sobriety Tests
If police suspect that you are driving under the influence, he/she will stop you and request to carry out some sobriety field tests at the same spot they blocked you. The minors below 21 are supposed to comply with the police though it is different for adults above 25. If you refuse to take the test, you will be required to take more tests at the police station or testing facility, and in case your results show that you were driving under the influence, your penalties will be increased.
These tests are also taken to prove your arrest’s probable cause since they occur immediately after your arrest. Stand on one leg, the breathalyzer, the walk, turn test, and the horizontal gaze test are among the most common field sobriety tests.
- Stand on one leg test — For the police to determine if you are stable, he/she will request you to stand on one leg for about forty seconds. They do this to take note of any rapid movement, swaying, and hoping.
- Breathalyzer test — The Police usually test your blood alcohol content with a portable breathalyzer. Even though this test is not as reliable as a blood test, it creates a probable cause for the police to arrest you for more tests.
- Walk and turn test — In some cases, the police will request you to walk on your toes to and from a certain distance. It will help the officer to notice any stumbling.
- Horizontal Gaze Test – The police usually hold something on their hand and ask you to gaze at it for some minutes, then move it horizontally to check if you will twitch as your eyes follow the object.
Vehicle Codes Associated With Juvenile DUI Plus Penalties Involved
In California, there are three-vehicle codes that control DUI offenses involving anyone below 21 years. These vehicle codes include:
- Vehicle code §23136
- Vehicle code § 23140
- Vehicle code §23152
The Zero tolerance statute under California vehicle code §23136
This code warns minors against driving with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.o1%. You can also be at risk of violating California vehicle code §23136 if, in your system, you are found to have taken a medicine containing alcohol. Although it is not termed a criminal offense, it can lead to your driving license suspension. However, through a skilled underage DUI attorney, you can win your DMV hearing, and your license suspension can be uplifted. During your recess, you can acquire a restricted hardship license to allow you to drive to work or school if you don't have any other means of transport.
Penalties Involved in “Zero Tolerance” Law
Apart from having your license suspended for a year, you can also face the following penalties:
- Enroll in a three months program of driving under the influence of education
- Additional of up to 3 years of your license suspension for failing to get tested for chemical soberness.
California vehicle code § 23140 — Underage DUI blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.05%
This vehicle code prohibits minors from driving with a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.05% but does not exceed 0.08%. This statute carries severe punishment compared to California Vehicle code §23136. However, through a skilled underage DUI attorney, you can win back your freedom.
Penalties of underage DUI with a Blood Alcohol Concentration of above 0.05 and below 0.08
The violation of California vehicle code § 23140 does not involve jail time; however, there are penalties involved, such as:
- For the first offense, your license will be suspended for one year.
- Spend thirty days of drugs and alcohol education for those above 18 years.
- For the first offense, you will be charged with a fine of $100, and if you commit the 2nd offense the same year, you are charged with a $200 fine, third offense$300.
You need an experienced underage DUI lawyer to help you lessen the penalties you face for violating California vehicle code §23136 and §23140.
California Vehicle code §23152— Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08% and above, or Actual Impairment
Under vehicle code §23152, DUI is charged as a misdemeanor. But it applies in various cases like:
- The drugs or alcohol in your body system has affected your ability to drive. Vehicle code 23152(a).
- Or if your blood alcohol concentration was above 0.08 while driving. Vehicle code 23152(b).
Actual Impairment Penalties
First-time underage DUI offenders penalties include:
- Jail time of at least 96 hours
- Probation of up to five years
- Fines of between $390 to $1,000
- Alcohol DUI education.
Penalties of offenders who cause injuries include:
- Jail sentence of up to 1 year
- Probation of three to five years
- Fines of up to $390 to $1,000
- UI drug or alcohol education
- Compensation to the injured persons
If an intoxicated underage driver causes a fatal accident that leads to severe injury or death, he/she is charged with a DUI felony. This felony charge involves the sentencing of more than four years. Depending on the number of injured victims in the accident, more years may be added to the sentencing. On top of that, your driving license is nullified.
Additional Charges In Underage DUI
Underage DUI can also cause other charges depending on the following factors:
- Acquiring alcohol by use of a fake adult ID.
- Having alcohol in a container
- The minor was having alcohol while riding in a car as a passenger.
These factors can cause more charges on your DUI charges and lead to harsher repercussions. Some of the harsher charges could be:
When juveniles fail to win their cases during the DMV hearing, they risk their license restriction. Compared to other types of od restrictions, the license restriction is more serious. If the juvenile has a no different mode of transport, he/she is only allowed to drive to work or school. Also, if the youth declined to take a breath test, he/she risks having his/her license restricted.
Reporting Your DUI Charges When Applying for School or Work
If you have a background in DUI charges, you should start it when seeking a new job or school. Failure to report your DUI conviction and cause you to be fired from work or expelled from school. Depending on your institution, you might also be hindered from applying for a scholarship.
However, filling for a DUI expungement can save you from all these troubles.
Crimes Related to Underage DUI
Juveniles can also be charged with other driving offenses besides underage DUI charges. Some of these offenses include:
Juvenile Alcohol Possession in a Vehicle(Vehicle Code 23224)
It is illegal for a juvenile to have alcohol while driving. However, you could be spared if:
- If the alcohol bottle is sealed and unopened.
- If an adult is accompanying the minor or if the guardian is disposing of the alcohol
- If the minor has a liquor license at hand and is working, it can also be spared.
Breaching this code is a misdemeanor, and the penalties for violating this code include:
- Paying fines of up to to $1,000
- Diving license suspension for one year
- The vehicle could be confiscated for thirty days.
Driving in Possession of Marijuana (Vehicle Code 23222 (b))
It is illegal for a minor to drive in possession of marijuana under vehicle code 23222 (b). If the container has a broken seal or is open, or if the weed is not a container, you are considered a suspect.
The penalty for breaching this law includes paying a fine of up to $100.
Consuming Marijuana or Smoking While Driving (Vehicle Code 23221)
It is illegal for a minor to drive while consuming alcohol and marijuana. If a youth is operating as a passenger while drinking alcohol and ingesting weed, he/she is considered a suspect.
For a first time offender, breaching this law is considered an infraction, and the penalties involve paying a fine of $100 maximum.
Distribution of Alcohol to Other Minors
If at the time of your arrest, other minors were found drunk in your car, you will be charged with alcohol distribution to underages.
Soliciting alcohol from adults (California penal code 303(A))
Minors are prohibited from purchasing alcohol or loitering around premises that sell alcohol. Your prosecutor might add this crime to your charges if you were soliciting at a place that sells alcohol.
Legal Defense Strategies
It is possible to win a case at trial despite the guilty pleas involved in DUI cases. In some instances, the prosecutor may withdraw the charges permanently if you have a strong defense. However, these are rare cases that mostly depend on the nature of your case. Hiring a skilled DUI defense attorney can have a positive outcome for your case.
Your attorney's responsibility is to review and explore all the evidence to check if you have any defense against your case. In the DUI case, there are two primary defenses. They include:
- Challenges to the chemical test
- Challenges to the stop
During a trial, your attorney may bring up either of the two or one of these defenses.
It is illegal for a police officer to stop you without a valid reason. Before the police can turn on their police lights and kill you, they must have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime or broken any traffic law.
Any officer that pulls you over with no valid suspicion desecrates your constitutional rights. Your attorney has the power to exclude any evidence gathered from a pullover that is illegal. Some of the evidence that can be excluded are:
- Any statement you made that was entrapping.
- Any evidence collected in your car is also excluded.
- Chemical test results.
The Test Challenges
In some cases, the chemical tests conducted can yield unreliable results even though the pullover that leads to your arrest was legal. There are various rules on how breath and blood samples should be collected and tested. If the officers failed to follow the right procedure, your DUI defense attorney could have the test results eliminated from your trial.
Challenges of Breath Test
In underage DUI cases that involve blood tests, two common issues frequently arise. They include:
- The results can not be used in court if the individual operating the breathalyzer is not qualified. Because the operator is not certified, he/she cannot attest to the accuracy of the results.
- To determine the amount of alcohol in your breath, the operators use a piece of very delicate equipment, which is the breathalyzers that use finely tuned sensors. If before the use of the machines are tampered with, they can show false results. If you are a victim of faulted breathalyzers, an experienced attorney can remove those results from your trial.
What Happens If you Refuse to Take a Breath Test?
If you refuse to take a formal breath test, also known as the preliminary assessment test, you risk having your driving freedom for one year. If you have a previous DUI history or refuse to take chemical tests before, your one year may be increased to more years.
Challenging a License Suspension After Denying to Take a Breath Test
If your license has been suspended, you can challenge this motion by requesting a hearing with the unit. The hearing request should be made within the first ten days following the suspension. In most cases, not unless you request the hearing to be conducted in person, it is done through a phone call.
Your attorney can represent you through the entire hearing. If your license is reinstated, you are supposed to:
- To prove your budgetary management, you should file an SR-22 form.
- Pay the Department of Motor vehicle a compensation fee of $125
- Provide your financial commitment for three years.
Blood Test Challenges
In most cases, blood test results are more reliable compared to breath tests. However, there are instances where blood tests give false results. For example, after the blood samples have been collected, various anticoagulants and preservatives must be added, the models will ferment. When blood samples ferment, they create alcohol naturally, leading to erroneous positive results.
After your blood sample is collected, it must be examined in a laboratory. The models go through many individuals' hands because they are taken to the state-run labs after the collection. The government keeps a record of every person who came into contact with the blood to ensure its safety. Your attorney may be able to eliminate the blood test results from your case if your prosecutor cannot show a clear record of a series of custody right from your arrest to the testing.
Also, the lab technician and the testing equipment should be licensed. If the equipment types are not properly licensed and the lab personnel, your lawyer can have the results vindicated from your case.
Other defenses include:
- Terrible Driving is not Equivalent to DUI — If you have been charged with DUI, you can defend yourself by saying you were driving awfully, but you were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Your skilled lawyer could also try to protect you by dismissing the claim and state that some traffic offenses are inevitable, and since even sober drivers commit them. Thus poor driving cannot be used as evidence of DUI.
- Being a Suspect of Intoxication does not mean you are Guilty. Most of the arresting officers will state that you had all signs of an intoxicated person during your arrest to prove to the prosecutor that you were drunk. You can defend yourself by saying those symptoms were a result of being fatigued or allergies. Suppose the officers testify against your breath having alcohol odor. In that case, your attorney can evoke the testimony by saying that the smell was caused by either an energy drink, mouth wash, or food you had eaten. It is a unique way of fighting your DUI charges.
- You were not driving the car — If you and your attorney can show that you were not actually behind the wheel, your charges could be reduced or even dropped.
- The test was affected by environmental factors — Some ecological factors like insufficient lighting or slippery surfaces that hindered you from performing various tests could also be used on your defense. With an experienced attorney, you can use all possible reasons and have your charges dropped.
- You Diet had Low carbohydrates and high proteins — If you were arrested, you had a high protein and low carbohydrates diet. Ketones produced by your body can be informed of alcohol, making the results of your breath test positive. If you are fasting or diabetic, ketones can also be present in your body. Such defenses are strong and could lead to the reduction of your charges.
- You had a medical condition such as heartburn or acid reflux during the arrest — Various health conditions can lead to the presence of alcohol levels in the mouth. If you have any similar medical issues, you can pr3sent them, and they may help in your defense.
Find An Underage DUI Attorney Near Me
It is essential to reach out to an experienced attorney if you are under 21 years and charged with Driving under the influence. DUI is a severe crime that carries serious penalties that could significantly affect your future. Having a skilled attorney by your side will help you navigate through the whole complicated process. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we have the dedication, skills, knowledge, experience, and drive needed to win these types of cases. Contact us today at 310-935-1675, and we will prepare a strong defense for your case and fight to have your charges dropped.