California DUI Zero Tolerance Law

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 What Is the Zero Tolerance DUI in California?

In California, the Zero Tolerance Law strictly prohibits people under the age of 21 from having any detectable amount of alcohol in their system while driving. This means that even a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of as little as 0.01% can result in a DUI for someone under 21.

The law aims to reduce drunk driving incidents involving younger drivers and emphasizes the principle that underage individuals shouldn’t consume alcohol, let alone drive after consuming it.

Can I Get a DUI if I Am Driving Something Other Than a Car?

Yes, in California, a DUI isn’t limited to just cars. You can be charged with a DUI if you’re operating other vehicles like motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, or even boats while intoxicated. The underlying principle remains the same: operating any form of transportation under the influence of alcohol or drugs poses risks to both the individual and others on the road or waterway.

Driving Motorcycles Under the Influence

Motorcycles, much like cars, are motorized vehicles that require concentration, coordination, and skill to operate safely. In California, if a motorcyclist is pulled over and found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can be charged with a DUI. The risks involved are heightened with motorcycles, given the lack of protective barriers compared to cars.

Intoxication can severely hamper a rider’s balance, reaction time, and judgment, leading to potentially fatal accidents.

Operating Scooters Under the Influence

With the rising popularity of electric scooters in urban areas, there’s a corresponding rise in DUI cases involving them. Many might falsely believe that because scooters are slower and smaller, they’re less dangerous when operated under the influence. However, a person intoxicated on a scooter can still cause harm to themselves, pedestrians, or other vehicles.

If caught riding an electric scooter while intoxicated in California, you can be charged with a DUI, facing penalties similar to other motorized vehicles.

Riding Bicycles Under the Influence

Although bicycles are not motorized, they still fall under California’s DUI laws. If a cyclist is swerving, showing signs of impaired judgment, or poses a danger to themselves and others, they can be stopped by law enforcement. If found to be under the influence, the cyclist could be charged with a “bicyclist DUI” or “CUI” (Cycling Under the Influence). The penalties for a CUI are typically less severe than motorized vehicle DUIs but can still involve substantial fines and other consequences.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

Waterways are not exempt from DUI laws. In California, operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is termed “Boating Under the Influence” or BUI. This law includes not only motorboats but also sailboats, personal watercraft, and even kayaks. The dangers here are amplified due to water hazards, potential drowning, and the risk to other boaters. The principles and procedures for BUI are similar to road DUIs, including field sobriety tests adjusted for the boating environment. If convicted, the penalties can be just as severe as a traditional DUI.

How Do Police Test for Intoxication During a DUI Stop?

During a DUI traffic stop, law enforcement officers have several methods to measure if a driver is intoxicated. They may first observe for signs of impairment, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the smell of alcohol. Field sobriety tests, which include exercises like walking in a straight line or standing on one leg, can further assess a driver’s state.

Additionally, officers might use a breathalyzer to measure a driver’s BAC. It’s important to know about the California implied consent law, which states that if you’re lawfully arrested for a DUI, you automatically consent to chemical testing. A DUI testing refusal can lead to additional penalties and the suspension of driving privileges.

What Is the Punishment for a First-Time DUI?

A first-time DUI offense in CA is a misdemeanor that can result in different penalties depending on the circumstances of the case. Generally, the possible penalties are:

  • Probation: 3 to 5 years of informal probation, which means the defendant does not have to report to a probation officer but must follow certain conditions, such as not driving with any alcohol in the system, not committing any new crimes, and completing an alcohol education program.
  • Fines: $390 to $1,000 in fines plus penalty assessments, which can increase the total amount to several thousand dollars or more.
  • Jail: Up to 6 months in county jail, though no jail time is required if probation is granted. However, some counties may impose a minimum of 2 days or more of jail time or work release.
  • License suspension: 6 months of driver’s license suspension, though the defendant may be able to get a restricted license or drive immediately with an ignition interlock device (IID) restricted license. An IID is a device that requires the driver to provide a breath sample before starting the vehicle and periodically while driving.
  • DUI school: 3 or 9 months of an alcohol education program, depending on the blood alcohol concentration level of the defendant. The program consists of classes, counseling, and group sessions that aim to educate the defendant about the effects and risks of alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Other consequences: The defendant may also face increased car insurance premiums, a criminal record, and harsher penalties for any subsequent DUI offenses.

Additionally, DUI sentence enhancement can apply if there are aggravating factors like having a minor in the car at the time.

What Is the Punishment for Drivers 18 to 21 Years Old?

The punishment for drivers 18 to 21 years old with DUI in CA depends on the blood alcohol concentration level of the driver and whether the driver caused any injury or damage.

California has two main laws that apply to underage drivers who are caught with alcohol in their system:

  • Vehicle Code 23136 VC is a “zero tolerance” law that prohibits drivers under 21 from driving with a BAC of 0.01% or higher. The penalty for violating this law is a one-year license suspension.
  • Vehicle Code 23140 VC is the underage DUI law that prohibits drivers under 21 from driving with a BAC of 0.05% or higher. The penalty for violating this law is a one-year license suspension, a $100 to $300 fine, and an alcohol education program.

In addition, underage drivers can also be charged with the same DUI laws that apply to adults if they meet the criteria. These laws include:

  • Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC is driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs that requires proof of actual impairment of the driver’s ability to drive safely. The penalty for a first offense is a six-month license suspension, three to five years of misdemeanor probation, a $390 to $1,000 fine, an alcohol education program, and up to six months in county jail.
  • Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC stands for driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, which does not require proof of impairment but only the BAC level of the driver. The penalty for a first offense is the same as for VC 23152(a) VC.
  • Vehicle Code 23153 VC is a DUI causing injury, which applies when the driver causes bodily injury or death to another person while driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The penalty for a first offense can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and the prosecutor’s discretion.
    • A misdemeanor conviction carries a five-day to one-year jail sentence, a $390 to $5,000 fine, a one-year license suspension, an alcohol education program, and restitution to the injured parties. A felony conviction carries a two to four-year prison sentence, a $1,015 to $5,000 fine, a five-year license revocation, an alcohol education program, and restitution to the injured parties.

These are the general penalties for drivers 18 to 21 years old with DUI in CA. However, they may vary depending on the specific facts of each case, such as the amount of alcohol or drugs in the driver’s system, the driver’s prior criminal record, and the impact of the offense on the victims or the community. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a local California attorney if facing any DUI charges in CA.

Will I Have to Appear in Criminal Court and a DMV Administrative Hearing for Underage Drinking?

Yes, if you’re charged with an underage DUI in California, you’ll likely have to navigate both the criminal court system and a DMV administrative process. The criminal court deals with the legal ramifications of the DUI, such as potential jail time, fines, or probation. In contrast, the DMV administrative hearing focuses on your driving privileges, determining the length and conditions of any license suspension.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Underage DUI Case?

Absolutely. Facing a DUI charge, especially as an underage driver, can have significant consequences. An experienced local California attorney can provide guidance, ensuring you understand your rights and potential defenses. They can also represent you in both the criminal court proceedings and DMV hearings, advocating on your behalf.

If you’re in this situation, contact a California DUI lawyer through LegalMatch to ensure you have the best possible representation.


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