Consequences of Underage DUI

Although some states take it easy on underage individuals that find themselves in the court systems, California is not one of them. The Zero Tolerance Law gives underage individuals who get a DUI no mercy in the courts. The consequences of underage DUI are just as severe as the penalties for those over 21 years of age. Let’s see what the consequences of a DUI are for underage individuals.

What is a DUI?

Driving Under the Influence or DUI is a charge that you’ll face if you get pulled over while intoxicated or suspicious of intoxication. The term intoxication can refer to either alcohol or drugs. It is bad enough when you get pulled over for a DUI and you are of legal drinking age, but when you are under 21, California courts want to teach you a lesson so you don’t have repeat offenses. 

Underage DUI Vehicle Codes

There are several vehicle codes that encompass DUI charges for underage individuals. They clearly state the protocol that must be followed by law officers and how the courts are to discipline such behavior.

Vehicle Code 23136

Vehicle Code 23136 states: “Notwithstanding Sections 23152 and 23153, it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 years who has a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or greater, as measured by a preliminary alcohol screening test or other chemical test, to drive a vehicle. However, this section shall not be a bar to prosecution under Section 23152 or 23153 or any other provision of law.”


In other words, if you are pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving and you are under 21, you are legally bound to participate in a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test. If it yields results higher than .01 BAC (blood alcohol content), you can be arrested.


It’s important to note that this code does not make it a crime to get a DUI under the age of 21. The catch is that if you do not go to court and fight the charge, your license will be suspended for one full year.

Vehicle Code 23140

This code states: “(a) It is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 years who has 0.05 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle. (b) A person may be found to be in violation of subdivision (a) if the person was, at the time of driving, under the age of 21 years and under the influence of, or affected by, an alcoholic beverage regardless of whether a chemical test was made to determine that person’s blood-alcohol concentration and if the trier of fact finds that the person had consumed an alcoholic beverage and was driving a vehicle while having a concentration of 0.05 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood.” 


This code makes an underage DUI an infraction if the BAC is .05% and higher. That is .03% lower than standard DUI laws, meaning the laws are tougher for underage drivers. Also, a conviction of an infraction doesn’t necessarily lead to time in jail, but it does carry other serious consequences.

Consequences to Expect After an Underage DUI

So you think you’ll get off easy because it is classified as an infraction and a crime, but this is far from the truth. There are several ways the courts punish underage DUIs in California. Here are a few things you may be facing if you’re found guilty:

  • First offense carries a minimum fine of $100
  • License is suspended for one full year for first offenders
  • Substance abuse classes must be attended for a minimum of three months

These are minimum charges and if the judge feels that the individual needs more hefty consequences, he or she can adjust fines and times accordingly. 

Ways to Defend Against Your Charge of Underage DUI

If you are facing this serious charge, your best chance of getting off with less punishments is to find a good attorney who knows the laws, such as those at H Law Group. These professionals know how to make a great defense and fight on your behalf. Several ways that a defense lawyer can help are:

  • Argue that something else interfered with the PAS, such as recent mouthwash or diabetes complications
  • The arrest itself was illegal
  • Your BAC result was in the margin of error
  • Equipment used to perform the PAS was faulty
  • Your BAC was lower while driving because it was technically still rising
  • You weren’t driving (parked car DUI)


These defenses hold quite a bit of weight in the courts. In addition, attorneys have certain respect and relationships amongst prosecutors and might be able to negotiate the charges better than if you were defending yourself.


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