Underage DUI Laws & Penalties in California
There are strict laws and consequences for driving under the influence regardless of age, but when the offenses are committed by those under the age of 21, the penalties are even more severe. It is very important for teens to understand how dangerous drinking and driving is and to avoid it at all times. You should never get into a vehicle where the driver has been drinking, for safety reasons.
There are several things that you should be aware of when it comes to California's laws regarding underage drinking and driving. California's zero-tolerance law states that it is illegal for any driver under the age of 21 to have any alcohol in their blood at all. If a teen driver is found to have even a negligible amount of alcohol in their bloodstream, they will have their driver's license suspended for a minimum of one year.
For drivers over 21, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level is .08. However, drivers who are under the age of 21 and are found to have a BAC of .05 or higher will be severely punished by the courts. One beer is enough to make this reading show up. Punishments for underage drinking and driving can include being put in jail, getting fined, and having additional penalties against you and your license. Here are the potential consequences that a first offense for underage drinking and driving can carry:
- 48 hours in jail
- Probation for 3 years
- 2 points on your license
- Removal of good driver status for 10 years
- Required installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on every vehicle you own or drive (in Los Angeles County, Tulare County, Sacramento County, and Alameda County); the courts can require this penalty in other California counties as well if they deem it necessary
- Must take a 5-week DUI class as well as 2 DUI impact classes
- Potential felony charges for drunk driving if anyone is injured or killed due to an accident you are in while intoxicated
- Potential job loss
- Automobile insurance rates will go up or the policy can be canceled altogether
- Serious injury to yourself due to an accident
- Potential job loss
- Loss of vehicle if you are in an accident while driving and drinking
Underage drinking and driving is nothing to play around with or take lightly. Drinking when you're under 21 can get you in trouble as it is; getting behind the wheel of a car and driving after you have been drinking takes the danger factor to a new level and can result in life-changing consequences and tragedies that you will never forget.
Don't fall into the trap of believing that because you are underage, the courts will go easy on you; they won't. The California laws are strict and severe for a reason: drinking and driving kills people and ruins lives. There is never a reason for you to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive after you have been drinking, or riding with someone who has. There are other options. You can always call your parents or another trustworthy adult if you need a ride, or use one of the ridesharing apps that are available for smart phones.
Even one beer or drink can register in your bloodstream, so do not take a chance. You could end up arrested, fined, and possibly jailed; and you will have to pay large amounts of money for court fees and DUI classes. Drunk driving isn't cool, it's not fun, and it can have deadly results. Make a pact with your parents, your friends, and yourself to never engage in this dangerous, reckless, and potentially fatal activity.