California has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers drinking alcohol. The minimum age to legally purchase or consume alcohol is 21. Anyone younger who has any level of alcohol in their system while driving can face penalties.
.08 BAC Threshold Does Not Apply to Underage DUI
Most Californians are familiar with the law that a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher is considered drunk driving. Because no one under 21 is legally allowed to drink alcohol, a BAC as low as .01 can result in penalties. A BAC between .05 and .08 is dealt with more harshly. Underage adults with a .08 or higher will face the same consequences as over-21 drivers.
Anyone operating a vehicle under the age of 21 is required to take a roadside breath test or preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS). Any measurable about of alcohol will lead to detainment.
DUI Under the Age of 18
Cases involving suspected drunk drivers younger than 18 are usually managed in juvenile court. At this young age, DUI is considered a delinquent act and not technically a crime.
The judge will determine an adjudication, often requiring the youth to complete community service, attend alcohol education courses, and satisfy other rehabilitative requirements. Their driver’s license is typically suspended for one year. An underage driver who is too young to legally drive will have the privilege to drive delayed one year.
Adjudication hearings are not jury trials like the adult court. Juveniles do, however, have the right to an attorney.
A juvenile record is sealed. Delinquent acts do not become part of a criminal record that follows them into adulthood. Juvenile DUI is not treated as a prior offense in adult cases.
Juvenile DUI Causing Injuries
Adult DUI offenses are often misdemeanor crimes. If the DUI involves injuring another person in an accident, the driver can be charged with DUI with injury, a potential felony. A driver younger than 18 can be held in custody instead of being released to their parents. A juvenile court judge will hold a detention hearing to decide whether the juvenile should remain in detention or be released to the custody of a parent or guardian.
DUI Between Ages 18 and Under 21
If you have a BAC of .01 or higher, your driver’s license is revoked for one year.
A BAC that is .05 or more but less than .08 will result in additional consequences:
- $100 fine (first offense)
- DUI school
DUI at this age is an infraction and not a crime. A second offense of DUI less than .08 is typically treated as an infraction, too. Subsequent offenses can mean potential incarceration.
A minor with a BAC of .08 can face regular adult misdemeanor DUI charges with the possibility of higher fines and jail time.
Underage DUI infractions will not be a part of a criminal record. An underage DUI charged as a misdemeanor or felony is included and can stay indefinitely on their criminal record. These charges will show up if someone runs a background check.
DUI Expungement in California
DUIs adjudicated in juvenile court are sealed. Only court personnel, parents/guardians, the minor, and attorneys involved in the cases will have access to a minor’s record. Once the minor turns 18, they can petition to have the record permanently sealed. If the petition is granted, access is prohibited, and the record will be erased five years later.
DUI misdemeanors and felonies in the adult criminal justice system are included in a person’s criminal record. The record can be expunged after the successful completion of probation. Would-be employers and rental companies will not see an expunged DUI, but the conviction will remain in court and law enforcement databases.
A driver’s record is treated separately from a criminal record. DUI charges stay on the driver’s record for 10 years from the date of arrest. Driving records cannot be expunged.
Seek Defense Counsel Experienced in DUIs
Underage DUI can impact a young person’s life for years to come. If you or your child is accused of drinking and driving, contact Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC as soon as possible. We have considerable experience in minimizing or eliminating DUI consequences.
We are available at (949) 251-0330 24/7. In non-urgent situations, tell us about your case in an online message.