Why underage DUI is often easier to prove in California courts

Underage drinkers need virtually no alcohol in their system to be found guilty of DUI. Thus, these cases call for good defense lawyers.

California comes down hard on people who have been convicted of underage drinking and driving. In fact, the laws are known as zero tolerance. For instance, someone 21 and older in California must generally have a BAC of 0.08 or higher to get in trouble for a DUI. Not so for a teen. As long as an underage drinker has any measurable alcohol in his or her system, it is possible to be convicted. Furthermore, an underage person does not necessarily need to have been drinking to get in trouble. As long as the person has alcohol in the car, he or she could be subject to a minor in possession charge that leads to losing a driver's license.

What are the penalties?

Underage drivers facing a first-time drinking conviction face penalties such as having to take a DUI class and losing their privilege to drive for one year. Those facing conviction for having alcohol in their car (but not necessarily facing conviction for underage DUI) may end up with their vehicle impounded for 30 days and could have to pay a $1,000 fee. In such cases, driver's licenses are typically suspended for a year. If the person does not even have a license, he or she may not be able to get one for up to a year.

Some exceptions do apply to the alcohol possession in cars law. For example, those working with people who have off-site liquor licenses are permitted to keep alcohol in closed containers. Similarly, if an adult or other responsible person is in the car with the driver and the alcohol is unopened, there may be no charge.

The lower threshold means cases can be easier to prove

So, given that underage drinkers can be convicted with any measurable amount of alcohol, it does not take much to prove that they have been drinking. An adult who gets a 0.03 on a BAC test probably does not get in trouble, while a teen with a mere 0.01 or 0.02 would get in far more trouble. Even a teen who opened a can of beer, took one sip and left the can open to drive to a friend's house could get in serious jeopardy for possession. Sometimes, it is possible to negotiate such charges down to a traffic offense, but they can still be serious.

Fortunately, there are lawyers in California who work on underage drinking and possession defenses. Because the consequences of conviction can be so severe, it is worth many people's time to get in touch with one. Indirect consequences of conviction may include fewer employment choices and reduced salary potential, depending on the circumstances of the offense.