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Alcohol-Related Offenses Associated with Underage DUI in CA


Even though you need to be at least 21 years old to consume, purchase, or otherwise possess alcohol, high school and college students in California and across the nation typically engage in underage drinking. Unfortunately, teens and young adults who drink and drive are often involved in serious and fatal crashes. 

That is why California and other states have enacted “zero tolerance” laws, which make it a crime or infraction for an underage driver to operate a vehicle with any amount of alcohol in his/her system. In California, a teen or young adult can be charged with a zero-tolerance offense or an underage DUI

Underage drivers who are caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of at least .01 percent can be convicted of a zero-tolerance offense, which is an infraction that carries a maximum fine of $250 and driver’s license suspension for one year. However, if an underage driver’s BAC is at least .05 percent, he/she can be charged with underage DUI, punishable by a fine of up to $300, a one-year license suspension, and DUI school (if the driver is under 21 years old but at least 18). 

Keep in mind, if an underage driver’s BAC is at least .08 percent, then he/she will be charged with a standard DUI like adults who are 21 or older. A first DUI offense carries a maximum jail term of six months, fines of up to $1,000, and driver’s license suspension for one year. 

Additionally, the following are other alcohol-related offenses potentially associated with an underage DUI in California: 

  • Minor in possession – It is against the law for anyone under 21 to consume or possess alcohol. A first offense carries a maximum fine of $250, up to 32 hours of community service, and driver’s license suspension for one year. 

  • Open container – Underage drivers are not allowed to transport alcohol—even if the containers is closed and properly stored—unless it is at the request of their parents or legal guardians, a parent or legal guardian is in the vehicle, or it is part of their job. Otherwise, driving with alcohol in the vehicle carries a fine of up to $250. 

  • Giving alcohol to a minor – If a person over 21 sells, gives, or otherwise provides alcohol to a minor, he/she faces a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum fine of $250 and/or up to 32 hours of community service. 

If you have been arrested for an underage DUI in Santa Barbara, call Appel & Morse at (805) 467-6060 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free consultation. Get a team of former prosecutors on your side! 

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