California’s underage DUI laws are among the toughest in the nation. Under the “Zero Tolerance Law”, anyone under 21 years of age with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.01% or greater will be charged with a DUI. Underage drivers with a BAC of 0.05% or greater may also be charged with both an underage DUI and a regular DUI at the same time and be subject to arrest for DUI .
For most, to reach a BAC of 0.01% means drinking:
- One 12-ounce beer
- One 4-ounce glass of wine
- One 1.25-ounce of liquor
Often, these will put a driver over 0.01%; usually closer to 0.05%. Drivers under 18 years of age that are convicted of DUI will lose their license for a year OR until their 18th birthday, whichever is greater.
Additionally, a judge may choose to confiscate an underage driver’s vehicle. In all cases, the driver will have to pay fines of several thousand dollars, attend driving safety and alcohol/drug abuse classes, will have to submit proof of financial responsibility in order to have their license restored after suspension, and will suffer numerous social and career-related consequences.
All underage DUI convictions will lead to the suspension of the driver’s license for one year; subsequent convictions will lead to more severe penalties. Likewise, individuals choosing not to submit to chemical testing will automatically lose their license for a year as well. Any subsequent refusals to submit to chemical testing within ten years will result in harsher punishment:
- Second refusal results in the driver’s license being suspended for 2 years
- Third and subsequent refusals result in the driver’s license being revoked and/or suspended for at least 3 years
- Refusing to submit to chemical testing is often socially and legally treated the same as an underage DUI.
Like other DUIs, underage DUIs are subject to two separate prosecutors—the DMV, which will suspend or revoke the driver’s license, and the criminal court, which will impose fines, jail time, and require the driver to take classes in safe driving and alcohol and drug abuse. In some cases, if the offending driver has no previous convictions and is over 18 years of age, he or she may be able to attend one 12 hour safety and alcohol/drug abuse class. If those requirements are not met, the driver will have to participate in a more intense and expensive 3 month course.
DUI and College Applications
Individuals who have been convicted of an underage DUI must list it on their college applications. This can, but does not necessarily, bar the student from being accepted, though it does have other implications. Colleges and universities may accept the prospective student under certain circumstances that do not apply to students without a conviction. However, those convicted of an underage DUI who have not listed it on their application are subject to immediate dismissal from the institution if it is discovered.
Additionally, many of the students who are convicted of underage drinking (non-DUI) on a college campus often face only college or university-related punishment. Students who have previously been convicted of an alcohol-related offense will face not only their school’s penalties, but will be referred to the local police where they will face the legal consequences for underage drinking as well. In many states, students majoring in education or pre-law that are convicted of underage drinking will not be permitted to continue working toward their degree, and must pursue another course of study.
Underage DUI and Careers
Like the college application process, career applicants must provide any information on previous convictions. Many young adults find it difficult to start their career after being so recently convicted of a misdemeanor. Again, the DUI does not necessarily bar the applicant from employment, but the employer has the right to review the information. If the previous conviction is discovered and the employee had not informed the employer, the employer has the right to terminate employment immediately.
Additional information on underage drinking and DUI
Some additional statistics that involve minors and underage drinking/DUI include:
- Any underage person driving under the influence that causes injury to another person or persons may be imprisoned for up to 1 year for each injured party; additionally, he or she must pay a fine of up to $1,000.
- Underage individuals who purchase, attempt to purchase, or consume an alcoholic beverage will receive a minimum $250 fine and/or at least 24 hours of community service, in addition to their driving privileges suspended or delayed for 1 year.
- Drivers or passengers under 21 that possess or transport alcohol in a vehicle face a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 6 months or both, vehicle impoundment, and suspended or delayed driving privileges for 1 year.
- Possession of an altered, suspended, or fictitious California license or other ID card will result in a $1,000 fine or up to 6 months in county jail or both.
- Possession of alcohol in public by a minor will result in a $1,000 fine or up to 6 months in county jail or both, as well as the 1 year suspension or delay of the minor’s license.