In all fifty states, no matter how old or young a driver is, driving under the influence is against the law. In California, DUI charges are particularly serious for drivers who are under 21 years of age. If you are the parent of an underage driver, what do you need to know about DUI in California? Can you do more to prevent it? How can you help if your teen is charged with driving under the influence? You are about to learn those answers.

Of course, if you are a parent – and even if you’ve had this particular talk with your child before – there is no time better than right now to discuss with your teen the serious risks, legal as well as physical, of drinking and driving. If your teen is arrested for driving under the influence, you can get trustworthy legal help right away by contacting an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer.

California parents were teens once too, so they tend to be realistic about teenage drinking, but when teen drinking is linked to driving, parents should line up with California law and enforce a zero-tolerance policy. California teenagers need to understand fully – and make no mistake – that drinking and driving is a deadly combination, and the teens who get caught are the lucky ones.

HOW ARE DUI LAWS DIFFERENT FOR YOUNGER DRIVERS?

How are DUI laws different in California for drivers who are under the age of 21? A person under 21 may not consume or purchase alcohol in this state, so even drinking one sip is illegal for an underage driver. California charges underage drivers with driving under the influence if they measure a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of even 0.01 percent, while the BAC limit for drivers age 21 and over is 0.08 percent.

California parents need to be sure that teen drivers understand – the 0.08 rule does not apply to them. Any measurable amount of alcohol is considered evidence of driving under the influence for drivers who are under 21. However, drivers under the age of 21 who measure a 0.08 percent BAC level will face harsher penalties comparable to the penalties imposed on adults who are convicted of driving under the influence.

Parents also should ensure that teen drivers understand what can happen when a teen is convicted of driving under the influence. The penalties for a conviction can include probation, a stiff fine, a driver’s license suspension, and in some cases, jail time. A conviction for driving under the influence goes on a teen driver’s permanent record, so it is likely that colleges and employers will discover it.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR AN UNDERAGE DUI CONVICTION?

If your teen is arrested in southern California for driving under the influence, consult at once with an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer. Precisely what penalties can be imposed on teens who are convicted for drinking and driving? California judges have a number of options in these cases, and the specific penalties in most cases are determined by the amount of alcohol involved and the driver’s previous convictions (if any).

Drivers under the age of 21 with a BAC level that measures at or above 0.01 percent can be convicted of an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250 and a one-year driver’s license suspension. Drivers under the age of 21 with a BAC level that measures at or above 0.05 percent can be convicted of “underage DUI,” which is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $300 and a one-year driver’s license suspension.

Additionally, after a conviction for underage DUI, a driver under 21 but at least 18 years old will be ordered to complete an alcohol education course before his or her driver’s license will be reinstated. An underage DUI conviction will also put two points on the offender’s driving record. However, drivers under the age of 21 with a BAC level that measures at or above 0.08 percent can be convicted of “standard” DUI – just like an adult.

HOW WIDESPREAD IS TEENAGE DRINKING?

In the United States, alcohol is the most-abused drug by people under age 21. Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is against the law in all fifty states, it is estimated that eleven percent of all the alcohol consumed is this nation is consumed by people ages 12 through 20. And when teenagers drink alcohol and get behind the wheel, they cause a great deal of damage.

Teen drivers need to know that California’s “implied consent” law requires minors who are lawfully detained for suspicion of DUI to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening test – a breathalyzer exam – even if the driver has not been formally arrested. State law specifies that drivers under 21 “imply” their consent to be tested simply by driving on a California street or highway.

When California teens die in traffic crashes, alcohol – far too frequently – is the reason. Frankly, your teenager’s life is at risk if he or she drinks and drives. Nothing is more important than your children and their futures. Observe the behavior patterns of your teens and their friends. Assure your child that he or she can be honest with you. And get legal help right away if your child is accused of driving under the influence.

WHERE CAN A PARENT TURN FOR LEGAL HELP?

If your teenager is charged with driving under the influence in Orange County or anywhere else in southern California – or if your teen faces a related charge like possessing an open alcohol container in a motor vehicle – have the case resolved in the best possible manner, and as quickly as possible, by an experienced southern California DUI attorney.

California parents should also understand that a teen’s arrest for DUI doesn’t mean your teen will be convicted. Like any other criminal accusation, a prosecutor must prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt to win a conviction. A good DUI lawyer will examine the charge, gather evidence, talk to witnesses, and offer the sound legal advice a parent will need.

An experienced DUI attorney may challenge the constitutionality of the traffic stop and the arrest, the accuracy of the breath test results, and even the arresting officer’s testimony. The right DUI defense attorney can offer the aggressive defense you need for your child and will fight on your behalf for the best possible result.