If you are 18 or over but less than 21 years old, and you are convicted for the first time of Misdemeanor Driving under the Influence of Alcohol in California, you will lose your license to drive for one year and face up to six months in jail. Judges will usually grant Probation, put you to jail anywhere from 48 hours to ten days or more, order you to pay substantial fines and fees, and order you to attend an alcohol education class at your expense. If you are convicted of a second DUI, you face up to one year in jail. If you are convicted of Driving under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs a third-time, you will likely spend a very long time in jail or in Treatment Programs; a fourth DUI within 10 years is a Felony in California and carries up to three years in Prison.
Under 21 DMV consequences
California Vehicle Code Section 13202.5 instructs the DMV to suspend the driving privilege of anyone who is under 21 years of age who is driving with a blood alcohol level of .01 or more. That’s about half of a can of beer for a person who weighs 150 pounds, even less if you don’t weigh that much. If you are arrested for an Alcohol DUI the officer will probably take your license and give you a paper copy of a temporary license. You must call DMV within 10 days of your arrest to request a hearing because that temporary license will expire after 30 days, and your driver’s license will likely be suspended for one year or more. DMV will then make it difficult if not impossible to get a restricted license, even if you need it for work or school. Depending upon the facts of your case, you can often petition the court and ask the Judge to grant you a restricted license if you can prove that you need it. There are severe DMV Consequences for anyone under 21 years old who is caught driving with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. If you are Under 18 and driving at a time when your blood alcohol level was .01 or higher, you will lose your license to drive for one year or more or until you turn 18.
Under 18 DUI – juvenile court
If you are under 18 and prosecuted for DUI of alcohol or drugs, you will be charged as a Minor in Juvenile Court and you must bring a parent or guardian with you to all court dates. Juvenile Court differs significantly from Adult Court but in general the same penalties apply; the main difference is that you face time in Juvenile Hall or California Youth Authority instead of County Jail or Prison. In Juvenile Court Proceedings you have the same rights as adults to see, hear, and test the evidence against you, but you do not have the right to a Jury Trial where twelve people from the community hear the evidence and then decide if you broke the law; you will have the right only to a Court Trial where a Judge will hear the evidence and decide.
DUI Sentencing options
In both Juvenile Court and in Adult Court, the Sentencing Judge is always faced with sentencing options if you are convicted of DUI. In Adult Court, in many Counties, hard work in Rehabilitation Programs can often result in a better sentence or a better recommendation from the District Attorney’s office, and in some cases you can get help at a residential rehabilitation program instead of spending time in jail. If you are Under 18 and convicted of a DUI in Juvenile Court, the Judge will usually direct the probation department to prepare a report about what punishment to impose, and then take into consideration your history and other information such as your behavior in the home, letters of recommendation, and your grade point average. Juvenile Judges have wide discretion to either place you on informal probation or allow you to continue to live in your home or, depending upon the facts of your case and your history, remove you from the home and place you in a group facility or in custody. If you are Under 21 and charged with Driving under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, you should always understand and take advantage of any evidence or information that can help to reduce your punishment.
Lesser charges to a DUI
There are numerous alternative charges that District Attorneys will sometimes offer to settle a case. This usually happens when there are problems with the evidence, for example when a breath, blood, or urine sample shows a low blood alcohol level that is at or near the legal limit; or the sample was taken a long time after the alleged driving; or there are problems proving that you were Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. If you are Under 21 you can be charged with an adult-level DUI (.08 percent or higher blood-alcohol level), or under different Vehicle Code Sections that apply only to Minors if you have a blood alcohol level as low as .05 or even .01 percent.
Fight your DUI
There are many possible defenses to Driving under the Influence of Alcohol depending upon the specific facts of each case. For example, you may be able to fight the reason why you were stopped or arrested in the first place; you may have been arrested even though you weren’t drunk when you were driving; and there are often flaws in conclusions drawn by law enforcement as well as inherent inaccuracy in the equipment and methods used to test your breath, blood, or urine. If you are Under 21 and over 18 and charged with a Misdemeanor or Felony, and you do not want to plead guilty or no contest, then you are entitled to have a either a Court Trial (where a Judge decides if you’re guilty – that’s usually a bad idea), or a Jury Trial where twelve people from the community hear the evidence and then decide if you broke the law. If you are Under 18 and in Juvenile Court you will have the right only to a Court Trial where a Judge will hear the evidence and decide.