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California Drinking and Driving: The Consequences

Posted on in DUI

underage DUI, San Jose DUI lawyer, adult DUI, drinking and driving, underage drinking consequencesThe number of underage adults who drink and then drive has fallen in recent years, but the issue still remains prevalent. In 2016, 15 percent of drivers aged 16-20 who were involved in fatal accidents were reported to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In California, the laws for underage drivers who choose to drink before they get behind the wheel are strict. Knowing these laws and what punishments they carry can play an important role in your defense if you are charged with an underage DUI.

The Laws

There are four alcohol-related motor vehicle laws in California that you can be charged with if you are under the age of 21. You can be charged with one offense or you can be charged with multiple offenses, depending on your situation.

VC 23136 - “Zero Tolerance” Law

This law states that it is illegal for any driver under the age of 21 to be operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .01 or higher. The BAC of underage drivers suspected to driving under the influence of alcohol is permissible to be measured with a preliminary alcohol screening test. Drivers who fail this test or who do not submit to this test will be subject to a minimum 1 year license suspension.

VC 23140 - Underage DUI Law

This law states that it is illegal for any driver under the age of 21 to drive with a BAC of .05 or higher. Usually, if a person if arrested for a violation of this law, he or she will have to take either a breathalyzer test or a blood test at the station. If a person is convicted with this crime, the sentence for a first offense is a $100 fine, and for offenders over the age of 18, a mandatory alcohol education program of at least three months is also required. Additionally, the offender’s license will be suspended until completion of the program.

VC 23152 - “Standard” DUI Law

A “standard” or adult DUI is committed when any person’s ability to drive is impaired due to the consumption of alcohol. A person is also violating this law if his or her BAC is .08 or higher. The law also states that is is illegal for a person to drive while under the influence of any drug, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. A “standard” DUI is a misdemeanor in California. Penalties for this misdemeanor can include:

  • Driver’s license suspension;
  • Three to five years of summary probation;
  • A fine of $390 to $1,000; and
  • Alcohol and/or drug education program

VC 23244 - Alcohol Possession in a Vehicle by a Person Under 21

This law states that a person under the age of 21 can not knowingly drive a vehicle carrying an alcoholic beverage unless the container is sealed and unopened and the person is accompanied by a parent or adult. If the person is not accompanied, then he or she must provide a legitimate defense that his or her parent or guardian gave instructions to dispose of the alcohol. Violating this law is a misdemeanor and can lead to the impoundment of the vehicle for up to 30 days, a fine of up to $1,000, and a one-year suspension of the driver’s license.

Contact a Santa Clara County DUI Defense Attorney

If you or your child are under the age of 21 and have been charged with a DUI, you need the help of a skilled San Jose DUI lawyer to represent you in court. The Law Offices of Erik Steven Johnson can help you protect you or your child’s future by fighting for the most lenient sentence possible. Call 408-246-3004 to schedule a free consultation.


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