Orange County Underage DUI Lawyer

Orange County Underage DUI Lawyer

Using alcohol or drugs and then choosing to get behind the wheel of a vehicle can result in disastrous effects for the driver, the passengers, and others near the vehicle. California has implemented a strong campaign against driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Nevertheless, there are still thousands of citizens who die each year because of this poor choice. For this reason, those who choose to drive while impaired are treated very harshly under California DUI laws. Ranging from fines to prison to license suspension, the potential penalties are life-altering and will compound as the number of your DUI convictions increases.

Whether you are facing your first or subsequent DUI arrest, speaking with an Orange County DUI attorney is vital to reaching the most positive outcome for your situation. Prosecutors will generally seek the most severe punishments to dissuade others from driving while under the influence. Though a noble venture, their tenacity can potentially cause the police and prosecuting team to take shortcuts and infringe on your constitutional rights to ensure the arrest becomes a conviction. The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC, has defended clients accused of breaking DUI laws for over 15 years. We have seen a wide range of situations, resulting in a plethora of knowledge and experience that we use to protect our clients’ rights.

Orange County Underage DUI Lawyer

DUI Statistics

In 2019 alone, there were almost 1,000 alcohol-related driving fatalities; this accounted for almost 10% of the nationwide total of 10,142. These alcohol-related deaths account for 26% of all traffic fatalities in the state. Between the years 2010 and 2019, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased by a factor of 15.8 for every 100,000. There was an even more dramatic change—28.3 for every 100,000—in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities among those less than 21 years old. It is important to note that these statistics only include situations that involve alcohol, as data is less available for incidents that involve accidents or arrests involving driving while under the influence of drugs. Even if driving while impaired does not cause a death or serious injury, an arrest and conviction can seriously derail the trajectory of your life.

Underage DUI Laws

As evidenced by the above statistics, driving while under the influence can be deadly. California has implemented harsh laws for those driving under such conditions. A person is considered to be driving under the influence if they are substantially affected by substances like alcohol, prescription medications, illegal drugs, or any combination that can impair a driver’s ability to make rational decisions and slow their reaction time.

There are two laws that apply to all drivers who operate a vehicle under the influence:

  • Express Consent Law
    Express consent, or implied consent, laws state that all drivers on California roads consent to chemical tests following a DUI arrest if they choose to operate a vehicle on the roads. This law applies to both California residents and residents of other states while in California. This law allows the prosecution to impose both administrative and criminal penalties on drivers who refuse this chemical testing following a legal arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence.
  • Zero Tolerance Law
    Implemented in 1994, the companion driver license suspension law (zero tolerance law) requires the DMV to suspend the license of any driver under the age of 21 with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01% or greater. This suspension will happen automatically unless you request a DMV hearing. This law also applies to any driver who refuses to take an alcohol or drug screening test. After an arrest or detention for DUI, the driver’s license is immediately confiscated by the police, and an order of revocation or suspension is served. These actions are independent of the criminal penalties imposed by the court after a DUI conviction.

There are multiple ways to be charged with DUI in California, as this law applies to substances like prescription medication, illicit drugs, toxic vapors, or aerosols.

  • DUI
    A DUI is defined as choosing to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any combination of the two. Drivers under the age of 21 will be found to have broken the law if their BAC is greater than 0.01%. DUI per se is a type of DUI that applies to any person who operates a vehicle with a BAC greater than 0.08%. This means a person can be arrested under DUI suspicion even if they show no outward signs of impaired driving.

It must be noted that these laws do not only apply to alcohol. Any substance that inhibits your ability to drive can fall under these statutes, including marijuana. Although medical and recreational marijuana are legal in California, they cannot be used while operating a motor vehicle. The laws for marijuana are similar to those for alcohol; there are specific venues where it can be used, but it is illegal to use or transport loose substances while driving.

What to Do When Pulled Over by Police

If the telltale red and blue flashing lights have gone off behind you, the most important thing you must do is remain calm. It can feel terrifying to be faced with a traffic stop, but keeping your composure can help you think through the situation and come out safely. Your first set of actions should be to:

  • Pull over when it is safe to do so.
  • Turn off your vehicle.
  • Roll down your windows.
  • Place your hands on the steering wheel where the approaching officer can see them.

Refrain from making any sudden movements to get your documents after the officer asks for your license and registration, as you do not want the officer to believe that you pose a threat. These calm and controlled actions are vital, even if the police officer is being hostile or rude during the interaction. The time to confront these infractions is when you are safely speaking with an attorney after the fact.

Also, refrain from volunteering any information. Police officers are not neutral parties, nor are they your friends in this situation. Their job is to phrase questions in such a way that leads you to incriminate yourself or volunteer information that can support their decision to arrest you for a DUI. It is never appropriate to tell an officer that you have been drinking, regardless of how long ago or how little the amount was. Admitting to drinking gives the officer cause to use a chemical test to determine your BAC or what other substances you may have used. Further, your BAC will rise as you drink, reach a peak, and then begin to fall. If you admit to drinking, the officer and prosecutor may try to use a falling BAC to suggest to the jury that your BAC was higher while you were driving prior to the arrest. This means you could be found guilty of a DUI in Orange County, CA even if your BAC at the time of arrest was lower than the legal limit.

Knowing Your Rights During a DUI Traffic Stop

As the officer is conducting their investigation, they may ask or demand that you take a:

  • Field Sobriety Test (FST)
    There are multiple types of FSTs, including the walk-and-turn test, gaze nystagmus, and Rhomberg balance test. Politely refuse to take any field sobriety test, as the officer can use both your ability to follow the directions of the test and your ability to complete the test against you during the trial. There is no legal requirement to participate in FSTs unless it is a condition of parole for a prior DUI conviction.
  • Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) Test
    The PAS test is a portable breath test machine that police officers can use during a DUI stop. Drivers under the age of 21 must comply with a PAS request from an officer during the stop. Similar to FSTs, adults are not obligated to take a PAS unless it is a condition of probation for a previous DUI conviction.

The law permits police officers to lie to citizens during criminal investigations. If an officer has stopped you under suspicion of DUI, they are conducting a criminal investigation. This means you should not believe an officer if they tell you that submitting yourself to an FST or PAS will prove that you are not drunk, and therefore they will let you go.

Your right to refuse without consequence, however, stops once you have been arrested for a DUI. If the officer still claims to have probable cause for the arrest, even after your refusal to volunteer information or submit to an FST, then your ideal course of action is to remain calm and avoid arguing. Once you have been arrested, you will be required to submit to a breath or blood chemical test. Refusal to take this chemical test after your arrest violates the express consent law. It can result in the prosecutors asking for a sentence enhancement from the judge for the refusal and the DMV suspending your license for at least a year and up to three years, depending on the number of prior convictions.

Potential Underage DUI Penalties

A DUI conviction is harmful to anyone, regardless of age; however, it can be especially detrimental for those under 21 years old. The exact penalties for a conviction depend on many factors, including:

  • Drunk driving history
  • The driver’s age
  • Blood alcohol content
  • Whether the driver was also under the influence of any drugs

The BAC limit for underage drivers is 0.01%, lower than the over-21 limit of 0.08%.

  • Under the Age of 18
    If convicted of a DUI with a BAC of 0.01% to 0.05%, a minor will lose their license for a full year or until they turn 18, whichever is longer. There will be a one-year delay in acquiring a state license if the driver does not yet own one.
  • Between the Ages of 18 and 21
    If convicted of a DUI with a BAC of 0.01% to 0.05%, the underage DUI will result in a one-year suspension.

This is where the differences end for underage drivers, though. If the chemical BAC test shows a result of 0.05% to 0.07%, the one-year license suspension will still be applicable; however, other penalties such as fines and mandatory DUI school attendance are also likely to be given during sentencing. If the underage driver is found to have a BAC of greater than 0.08%, the potential penalties will be the same as for any other driver charged with a DUI. These punishments include:

  • A suspended driver’s license
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Vehicle confiscation
  • Jail time
  • Fines
  • Probation

There are also lesser-known consequences of an underage DUI:

  • Car Insurance Premium Increase
    The price of a young driver’s insurance is already costly; however, the cost can increase to two or three times the typical premium after a DUI conviction. Because California requires that drivers maintain car insurance to operate a vehicle, it may be many years before you are able to afford to drive a car. An underage driver must get an SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility to be insured, and some insurance companies will refuse to renew a policy if a minor on the plan was convicted of a DUI.
  • College Student Disciplinary Proceedings
    Some universities and colleges have disciplinary actions that may be imposed if one of their students gets a DUI. These university sanctions, such as dismissal from housing, loss of privileges, attendance at an alcohol education and intervention program, or suspension, can apply even if the DUI occurred off campus. Even after fulfilling all the DUI obligations, some schools may require that they disclose a DUI conviction on their application.

Orange County Underage DUI Defense Attorney

A DUI conviction can be disastrous for a young person’s future, especially if they are not yet 21. The entire process is time-sensitive and should not be approached without an experienced attorney in your corner. The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC, has handled hundreds of cases in juvenile court and, as a result, has a deep familiarity with how DUI cases are prosecuted. This allows us to craft the most effective defense strategies to ensure the greatest possible outcome for your situation. If you or a loved one has been accused of an underage DUI, reach out to the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC, today for a consultation.


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