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What You Should Know about California’s Zero Tolerance Law

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California’s laws on drinking and driving impose stiff penalties on all drivers discovered to be driving while intoxicated, but these laws come down especially hard on drivers who have been drinking and are under age 21. California is a so-called “zero tolerance” state when it comes to underage drinking and driving, meaning that young drivers found with any alcohol in their system at all will face charges. Learn more about DUI convictions for drivers under age 21, below, and speak with a California criminal defense attorney immediately if you’ve been charged for driving after drinking.

Any blood alcohol content at all could land you in trouble

Under the Zero Tolerance laws in the California Vehicle Code, drivers under 21 with a blood alcohol level of .01% or greater can face a one year suspension of their driver’s license. Drivers under 21 who submit to a roadside breathalyzer or other alcohol screening device that shows they have at least this much alcohol in their system while driving could face a one-year license suspension, regardless of the source of the alcohol. In other words, the penalty applies even if the source of the alcohol was cough syrup.

“Underage DUI” penalties available when blood alcohol content is below .08%

Drivers under 21 who are found to have a BAC of between .05% and .08% could be subjected to penalties for what’s often known as an “underage DUI.” This is an infraction that could result in a suspension that, for a first offense, could carry a one-year license suspension, a $100 fine, and three or more months of alcohol education classes for drivers over 18.

Standard DUI charges could interfere with schooling and future job prospects

Underage drivers found to be driving while actually impaired by alcohol or drugs and/or with a BAC of .08% or higher can be charged with a “standard” DUI. This is a misdemeanor criminal offense.

For a first offense, underage drivers could:

have their license suspended,

face 3-5 years of informal, or summary, probation,

be charged with fines of between $390 and $1000,

be required to participate in either 3 or 9 months of drug or alcohol education, and

spend up to 6 months in custody.

Being found transporting alcohol can be penalized, even when containers aren’t open

Drivers under 21 are not permitted to transport alcohol, even if the container isn’t open or unsealed, unless they are being accompanied by an adult, transporting the alcohol as part of their job for an employer with a valid liquor license, or disposing of the alcohol on behalf of their parent or guardian. Of course, if the container is open, the reason that the alcohol is being transported won’t matter. Violating open container laws could result in misdemeanor charges with potential penalties of a year-long license suspension and up to $1,000 in fines.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Southern California, make sure your rights are protected before the court by securing experienced legal help, and contact a knowledgeable and effective Ventura criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Paul Tyler for a consultation, at 805-889-9000.

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