California DUI laws are not only strict but also broad and vague. For a layperson, it would be quite tricky to understand these laws in their entirety until they seek expert legal help. This is because different statutes cover different aspects of a DUI crime. For instance, we have standard DUI laws, laws on commercial DUI, immigrant Visa DUI, and underage DUI. In this article, lawyers from San Diego DUI Attorney expound on underage DUI laws and how they apply in Phelps Corner. We know that you cannot understand all these laws that is why we are also at your disposal to provide you with expert legal representation if you get charged under any of the statutes.

Understanding Underage Drunk-Driving in Phelps Corner

Two primary laws regulate underage drinking and driving in Phelps Corner. These include the Zero-Tolerance law under Vehicle Code (VC 23136) and underage DUI with a BAC of .05% and above under VC 23140.

These two DUI statutes apply to minor motorists that are below the age of twenty-one years.  They both can lead to the underage motorist’s license being suspended for a maximum of one year. Also, these laws may apply even when the minor driver isn’t, in reality, impaired with alcohol. An under twenty-one breaks these laws merely by operating a vehicle with the prohibited level of BAC.

Declining to submit to breath testing to determine your BAC level won’t help. Refusing to undertake a DUI chemical testing will lead to the suspension of your privilege to drive for one year.

Zero Tolerance Under Twenty-One DUI (VC 23136)

VC 23136 describes the zero-tolerance law for underage DUI. The zero-tolerance law prohibits anybody that is below the age of twenty-one years from operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content level of .01% or higher. That is, any person that is under twenty-one years should not drive with any measurable alcohol amount in their system, which results from drinking alcoholic beverages.

This statute applies to all other drinks that contain alcohol and not only alcoholic drinks. This means that even those medications that contain alcohol may subject you to facing DUI charges under Vehicle Code 23136.

Vehicle Code 24136 isn’t a crime. It’s a civil offense. If convicted as a first-time offender, you will face a driver’s license suspension penalty for one year. And if you have a record of breaking DUI laws, your license could be suspended for up to two or even three years. It is quite common for defendants that are charged with VC 23140 underage drunk-driving with a blood alcohol content of .05% or higher to also be charged with a VC 23136 zero tolerance under twenty-one drunk-driving offense.

The Lawful Meaning of Underage Drunk-Driving Under Vehicle Code 23140

The lawful definition of VC 23140 underage drunk-driving is driving a vehicle when you are below twenty-one years old and when driving, you are intoxicated or are affected by drinking an alcoholic drink and your BAC when driving was .05% or higher.

Usually, an underage drinking and driving crime is proven when the driver takes a post-arrest drunk-driving chemical test. That is a DUI blood or breath test. The driver has the option of selecting which of the two tests he/she is willing to undergo.

As we mentioned earlier, you might not decline to undergo post-arrest chemical testing without repercussions (a one-year driver’s license suspension). All motorists in Phelps Corner, no matter what age they are, are considered to have agreed to take post-arrest chemical tests should they be legally arrested for driving while intoxicated, including Vehicle Code 23140 underage drunk-driving. 

Some good news is that the law prohibits an offender from being sentenced for two or more DUI offenses for similar behavior. Thus, suppose you operate a vehicle while intoxicated with alcohol when you are under twenty-one, and your BAC level is .06%. The prosecutor may charge you with both VC 23152a DUI of alcohol as well as VC 23140 underage drunk-driving with a blood alcohol content of .05% or higher. However, the judge will only convict you of either of these two crimes.

An exception here is VC 23136 Zero-Tolerance under twenty-one drunk-driving. As we mentioned earlier, Zero-Tolerance underage drunk-driving is categorized as a civil offense and not a criminal offense. Therefore, you can be convicted of both Vehicle Code 23140 and be cited for Vehicle 23136. For this, you will need to have a competent Phelps Corner DUI attorney by your side to help you fight these charges so that at least one can be dismissed or the penalties reduced.

And in case you are below the age of twenty-one, and you’ve got an open can of alcoholic drink in your car, you might be charged with a distinct and additional crime under VC 2344, which is a misdemeanor.

Penalties of Underage Drunk-Driving Under VC 23140

VC 23140 underage drinking and driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .05% or more is charged as an infraction in Phelps Corner. An infraction doesn’t lead to a jail sentence. The punishment for violating VC 23140 include:

  • Suspension of one’s driver’s license by the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • $100 in fines (or more than this if the defendant has a prior DUI
  • If the accused is eighteen years old or over, he/she will be required to enroll in an alcohol school program lasting for three or more months

Apart from these penalties, a defendant can have his or her  car impounded for a minimum of five days in case:

  • He or she has a past conviction for underage drunk-driving under Vehicle Code 23140 or a previous conviction for standard drunk-driving
  • His or her blood alcohol content is 0.10% or higher, or he/she declined to undergo chemical testing

How You Can Fight and Win Underage DUI Charges

Defending the underage drunk-driving charges against you in Phelps Corner or any other DUI-related charges for that matter can be complicated. The most known legal defenses against under twenty-one drunk-driving charges that your Phelps Corner DUI attorney can argue out include:

You Were Not Driving

In case you were not operating your vehicle in reality, you cannot be convicted of underage drunk-driving. This may occur if, for instance, you were only sleeping the alcohol off in your vehicle.

You Were Not Drunk

Chemical tests for DUI have in themselves a given margin of error. Your lawyer, sometimes with help from an expert witness, may be capable of persuading the judge that there’s reasonable doubt about whether your blood alcohol content level was above or at the stipulated legal limit for Vehicle Code 23140 Vehicle Code 23136 for that matter.

Mistakes in Your Breath Test

Breath tests results that are commonly used as proof in underage drunk-driving cases are usually subject to several kinds of errors that stem from issues like:

  • The breath testing device not being calibrated properly
  • The administrator of the test not being trained properly
  • No fifteen-minute continuous observation period before the administration of the test

Mistakes in Your Blood Test

The results of the blood test used in Vehicle Code 23140 and VC 23136 underage drunk-driving cases are also bound to have errors. The mistakes may include:

  • The blood sample not being collected or drawn correctly
  • The blood fermenting, thus producing its own alcohol once it has been drawn
  • There being mistakes when documenting the chain-of-custody of the blood sample

Residual Mouth Alcohol Caused the Contamination of the Breath Sample

Once you drink any alcoholic beverage, a little amount of that alcohol stays in your mouth, in your mucosal linings. Sometimes, a breath testing device gets confused by the mouth alcohol, which leads to erroneously elevated readings. Falsely high BAC results can cause you to be charged unfairly for violating Vehicle Code 23140 under twenty-one drunk-driving with a blood alcohol content of .05% or more.

Factors that can contribute to or cause mouth alcohol are:

  • Using a breath spray or mouthwash that contains alcohol
  • A low carbohydrate or high protein diet
  • Medical conditions like diabetes, GERD, acid reflux, or hypoglycemia
  • A drink that is taken too recently that you are not drunk yet

Rising Blood Alcohol

Once you drink alcohol, your blood alcohol content level fixedly rises until it reaches a peak. This happens between thirty minutes and a couple of hours later. If the level of your blood alcohol was still increasing during the time you underwent chemical testing for under twenty-one DUI, it would mean that your BAC level was, in reality, lower when you were driving. Your attorney, with help from an expert witness, may be capable of drawing up a timeline that would help establish this.

Illegal Traffic Stop, Detention, or Arrest

Chemical testing in Vehicle Code 23140 underage drunk-driving case is allowed only when there has been a legal traffic stop, detention, or arrest. Traffic stops and arrests might be illegal if there wasn’t any probable cause for them to happen. This means that essentially, the arresting officer should have reasonable suspicion or reasonable belief that you are violating the law for him/her to put you under arrest or detain you. Breaking the law could be committing a traffic offense or drunk-driving when you are below the age of twenty-one. If an arresting officer does not have any probable cause, then he or she cannot lawfully stop your car or arrest you.

A stop may lack a probable cause if, for example, you were stopped only for the reason that you were behind the wheel very late in the night. If this is the case, an experienced Phelps Corner DUI attorney may be able to bring a motion to suppress in court to help your case. This motion aims at seeking for the judge to suppress any proof collected during this illegal stop. Should the motion be successful, your case will most likely be dismissed.

Failure by the Arresting Officer to Inform You About Your Rights

Law enforcement officers are governed by particular obligations of disclosing specific information to suspects during DUI arrests and investigations. This information includes:

  • Giving comprehensible instructions during the administration of field sobriety tests
  • Informing you that failing to submit to chemical testing will lead to your driver’s license being suspended
  • After you’ve been arrested, reading Miranda rights to you prior to asking incriminating questions

If the arresting officer does not follow these procedures or doesn’t follow them correctly in an underage DUI case, an experienced Phelps Corner DUI attorney may be able to use this to your benefit.

Related Offenses to Underage Drunk-Driving

Related crimes to under twenty-one drunk-driving are those violations that you can be charged with alongside or instead of underage driving. These offenses include

Standard DUI/Adult DUI (VC 23152)

Irrespective of how old you are, you can face charges of standard DUI in case your ability to drive is impaired because of alcohol, drugs, or both, or you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08% or more.

Adult DUI is charged as a misdemeanor in Phelps Corner, unlike Vehicle Code 23140 underage drunk-driving with a blood alcohol content of .05% or higher, which is an infraction. The punishments for a first standard DUI are as follows:

  • Suspension of the driver’s license
  • Summary probation for a period between three and five years
  • A fine ranging between $390 and $1000
  • A three-month or nine-month drug or alcohol education program
  • A maximum of six months of a jail sentence

Underage Possession of Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle (VC 23224)

Under Vehicle Code 23224, people that are below the age of twenty-one may not have alcohol in their vehicle except if the alcoholic container is sealed, unopened, and full, and they’re:

  • In the company of their parent or any specified adult
  • Disposing of the alcohol since their parent, guardian, or any other adult wanted them to do so
  • Transporting it because it is their job, and they should be working for a person that has a valid liquor license

Sometimes, Vehicle Code 23224 is charged together with VC 23140 underage DUI. If you violate VC 23224, you will be charged with a misdemeanor offense. The penalties for this may include:

  • A maximum fine of $1000
  • Your vehicle will be impounded for a maximum of thirty days
  • Driver’s license suspension for one year

Challenging Your Driver’s License Suspension

As we mentioned earlier, one of the punishments for underage DUI is a driver’s license suspension for a year. However, note that you have the right to challenge the suspension of your license (including the suspension due to refusing to take chemical tests). To do this, you must demand a license suspension hearing from the DMV.

Note that this hearing isn’t automatic. You need to ask for it within ten days of your citation for chemical testing refusal or VC 23136 violation. Usually, this hearing will be conducted through the phone, except if you request the DMV to conduct it in person. Your Phelps Corner DUI attorney can represent you at this hearing and handle it all on your behalf.

If you prevail in the hearing, the DMV will cancel the revocation or suspension of your license. However, even if you lose your hearing, all isn’t lost. In this case, you may:

  • Appeal the decision of the hearing officer. You do this by paying $120 and presenting a written request within fifteen days from the date the hearing officer served you with the notice of their decision on the hearing
  • Demand a restricted critical/hardship use license (except if the suspension was due to your refusal to submit to chemical testing

When the period for your license suspension ends, you can have your privilege to drive restored by following these steps:

  • Paying a reissue fee of $125 to the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Filing proof of responsibility (SR-22 form)
  • Maintaining the SR-22 form for up to three years

Note that if you lose your DMV hearing, you may be capable of getting a restricted critical/hardship use license, a special form of license that resembles a learner’s permit. With this license, you can drive to & from school or work if there isn’t any other transportation available. However, this form of license isn’t available if your license was suspended because you declined to submit to chemical testing.

Consult an Expert DUI Defense Attorney Near Me

There is no doubt that California imposes strict laws on underage DUI. Should you get convicted under these laws we have discussed, you risk going to jail, license suspension, and hefty fines. However, with the help of an experienced DUI defense lawyer, all is not lost. You can still have your charges dismissed for lack of tangible proof since the prosecution’s evidence contains errors all the time, and it’s the work of your lawyer to help you unearth these errors. This being said, you must have legal representation in your underage DUI case. If you are in Phelps Corner and need help with your under twenty-one DUI case, reach out to San Diego DUI Attorney law firm as soon as possible at 619-535-7150. You will talk to one of our lawyers who will fight for you and defend your rights.