What Happens if You Get a DUI While Under 21 Years Old?

Driving under the influence (DUI) can result in severe penalties for drivers in California. And these consequences are even more serious for drivers under the age of 21 since they are not legally of age to consume alcohol. All drivers should think twice about operating a vehicle after consuming alcohol but if a driver under 21 gets caught, the charge may change the course of their future.

What Happens If You Get a DUI Under 21?

Adults with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or more are guilty of a DUI, but there is a “Zero Tolerance” law for drivers under 21 years old. This means that drivers who show a 0.01 BAC will face charges for drunk driving. To put things in perspective, a male who weighs 220 pounds or less is likely to reach a BAC of 0.01 after having one 12-ounce bottle of beer.

Keep in mind that being charged with a DUI does not require officials to prove you were under the influence in a manner that affected your ability to drive safely. If you are stopped while driving and asked to take a preliminary breath test, you will face consequences if the results were 0.01 or higher. Guilty individuals will lose their license for the period of one year. The charge will not count as a criminal DUI charge, therefore no jail time will be required and the DUI will not remain on the driver’s record.

Drivers under 21 will face additional penalties if their BAC is at least .05 but less than .08. This will not only result in the suspension of the driver’s license, but also a fine of $100, mandatory attendance at an alcohol education program, and vehicle impoundment for individuals with a prior conviction. This charge will put a DUI on the driver’s record.

Underage drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or greater can face a range of criminal charges. A first offense is considered a misdemeanor and the one year suspension required by the “zero tolerance” law is longer than drivers who are 21 years or older. Penalties include a maximum fine of $1,000, informal probation for up to five years, required participation in an alcohol education, up to six months in jail or juvenile custody, and suspension of the driver’s license.

Underage drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or more can expect the same consequences of the DUI law that applies to adults. This includes thousands of dollars of fines, court fees, up to six months in jail or juvenile custody, suspension of the driver’s license, and years of probation.

Lastly, DUI law does not always depend on blood alcohol content. Underage drivers who were swerving or engaging in dangerous driving behaviors due to alcohol can face a DUI charge. The penalties would be the same as those for a BAC of 0.08 or higher.

It is also important for young drivers to know that authorities can issue charges for more than one of the above violations. For example, drivers who were weaving in and out of different lanes with a BAC of 0.06 have violated three different rules – the “zero tolerance” law, driving with a BAC of 0.05 or more, and impaired driving due to erratic driving patterns.

Drivers under the age of 21 who are involved in a drunk driving accident should seek help from an experienced DUI lawyer. College admissions and employment applications usually ask about previous crimes, and those found guilty of a DUI are required to disclose the details. Don’t let one bad mistake ruin your future.