DUI Under Age 21

DUI Under Age 21

For those under age 21, it is illegal to drive a vehicle with any detectable alcohol in your system.

There are essentially three possible DUI offenses for persons under age 21.

The first two offenses are infractions:

  • DUI with blood alcohol content of 01% or More (Vehicle Code section 23136)
  • DUI with blood alcohol content of 05% or More (Vehicle Code section 23140)

Both offenses can be proven by a breath or blood test.  But because the offenses are infractions, you have no right to a jury trial.   But the 0.05% offense also can be proven by alternative methods and without a breath or blood test to determine your blood-alcohol concentration.

The third possible under 21 DUI offense is a misdemeanor (Vehicle Code section 23152(a) or 23152(b)):

  • If you are under 21 and you drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more or your driving ability is actually impaired due to alcohol and/or drugs, can be charged with the “adult” misdemeanor version of DUI and be subject to all the same penalties as a person 21 or older. And of course, if you have three or more prior DUI convictions, subsequent offenses can be felonies regardless of your age.

Traffic or Juvenile Court, Not Criminal Court

If you are charged with either of the two under 21 DUI infraction offenses, and you are under the age of 18, your case will be handled in either the juvenile traffic court or the juvenile court/probation system.  But if you are over age 18 when charged, your case will be handled in the adult traffic court unless you are also charged with an additional misdemeanor or felony charge.

Penalties for Underage Drinking and Driving

Under age driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or higher (infraction)

  • 1 year license suspension (no jail time)

Under age driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05% or higher (infraction)

  • 1 year license suspension (for a first offense)
  • $100 fine (for a first offense)
  • 3 months or longer mandatory alcohol education program (if age 18 or older)

Under age driving while actually impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, or with a blood alcohol concentration of .008% or greater

  • License suspension
  • 3 to 5 years informal probation
  • Fine: $390 to $1,000
  • 3 to 9 month alcohol and/or drug education program
  • Up to 6 months jail

Related Offense – Possession of alcohol in vehicle by person under 21

People under 21 may not carry alcohol inside a vehicle unless:

  • the container is full, sealed, and unopened, and
  • they are:
    • accompanied by a parent or other specified adult,
    • getting rid of the alcohol because their parent or such an adult told them to, or
    • carrying it as part of their job working for someone with a legitimate liquor license.

Penalties for possessing alcohol in a vehicle include:

  • Vehicle impoundment up to 30 days,
  • $1,000 fine, and
  • 1 year driver’s license suspension

Additional consequences of an underage DUI

An under 21 DUI can have far-reaching consequences.  If you are convicted of an under 21 DUI, when you apply for college or employment, the conviction must be must be reported on the applications.

An under 21 DUI also counts toward your criminal history score if you are subsequently convicted of a federal crime.