If you are under the age of 21 and facing charges for driving under the influence, it can be a confusing and upsetting time for you. DUI offenses are considered serious illegal behavior under California laws, and the provisions and penalties associated with underage drinking while driving, is a reflection of the overall zero tolerance policy of lawmakers.
When you’re charged with an underage DUI, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that at the time of your arrest, you were under the age of 21 and you were driving with alcohol in your body. Unlike other DUI charges that require a specific level of alcohol, with underage DUI, any detectable amount is sufficient. Even taking cough syrup prior to driving can result in a positive alcohol presence in your blood stream. Accordingly, it is important that you hire the services of a San Diego DUI defense lawyer as soon as you are charged.
Penalties for a California Underage DUI Conviction
Jail time is often the biggest fear for an individual charged with a criminal offense. The penalties for underage drinking and driving will vary depending on the blood alcohol content (BAC) present in your body:
- BAC .01 or higher – This violation of the California Vehicle Code is a civil offense, resulting in your driver’s license being suspended or revoked. While this offense does not carry jail time, if you are innocent, it is important that you seek the help of an attorney to fight your charge.
- BAC .05 or higher – In this case, there is no jail time if found guilty. Penalties include driver’s license suspension, a fine, and enrollment in an education program.
- BAC .08 or higher – At this point, the law applies the subjective description of impairment to the offense of underage DUI. Essentially, the law recognizes that you are drunk and the offense becomes a misdemeanor. In addition to other penalties, you could also face up to 6 months in jail.
It is important to note that refusing to participate in a pre-arrest alcohol test will result in an automatic suspension of your license. Further, penalties will increase depending on your previous DUI history and whether you are charged with a felony if your DUI resulted in an injury or fatality. A San Diego underage DUI lawyer who understands the technical aspects of California’s DUI laws can help you retain your freedom and driving privileges.
Defending Your Underage DUI Charge
Because of the potential penalties, it is vital to put forward a strong defense when charged with underage DUI. There are a number of legal defenses that may be available to you, depending on the circumstances of your case. Those may include:
- At the time when the police officer pulled the vehicle over, you were not driving
- The traffic stop was an unlawful one
- You were unlawfully arrested
- In accordance with law, you were not informed of your rights
In addition to the above defenses, and depending on the facts of your case, your San Diego underage DUI attorney may also advance defenses in relation to certain medical conditions or technical or procedural errors associated with chemical testing prior to and subsequent to arrest. You are innocent until proven guilty, so always talk to a lawyer before accepting any plea deal or pleading guilty.
Get an Experienced San Diego Underage DUI Lawyer
An underage DUI can have profound effects on a young person’s future. Your life is just getting started, and an underage DUI conviction can affect future employment and school enrollment. At McElfresh Law, we understand the importance of not having a criminal record. With this in mind, we will work vigorously to get your charges dismissed or reduced.
As criminal defense lawyers, we are experienced in the California Criminal Code and the criminal justice system. For years, we have provided high-quality legal representation to individuals charged with numerous types of criminal offenses. We are equipped with the knowledge and experience to fight for the best possible result for your case. Call us today at (858) 756-7107 and let us stand beside you in court.