San Diego Underage DUI Penalty

Under Age Drinking in San DiegoUnderage DUI

Being charged with DUI offenses, as a juvenile, can be a very serious matter. Below is an overview of what you may face when charged with an underage or general DUI.

“Zero Tolerance” Law

Pursuant to California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 23136, it is illegal for a juvenile (a person under the age of 21) to drive a motor vehicle if they have a blood alcohol level of 0.01 percent or higher, as measured by a preliminary screening or other chemical test.

This standard is very strict: the blood alcohol content requirement for an adult is 0.08 percent, as opposed to the 0.01 percent for a juvenile. For many minors, one drink will put them over the limit, meaning this law makes it nearly impossible for someone underage to drink at all and then legally drive within a certain time frame (Boynton Health Service,

If an offender is lawfully detained because an officer suspects them of violating this law, it is automatically assumed that they have given their consent to be tested. Also, they must be informed of the fact that if they don’t submit to testing or don’t complete it, their driving license will be revoked or suspended for 1 to 3 years.

Prosecution of the Crime

In order to convict a minor of a DUI under this section, it must be proven that they:

- Were under the age of 21 at the time of the offense, and
- Drank something with alcohol in it, and
- Drove a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.01 percent or higher, and
- Were lawfully detained and tested by an officer with reasonable cause to believe they violated this law

Pursuant to Determination by Weight

In addition to the above offense, a juvenile (as defined previously), may be charged with a DUI if they are driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent or higher, by weight (California Vehicle Code Section 23140).

Prosecution of the Crime

For this offense, it must be proven that the offender was:

- Under the age of 21
- Drank and was under the influence of or affected by an alcoholic drink
- Driving a vehicle
- Had a 0.05 percent or higher blood alcohol content, by weight

Pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 23152 – General DUI Provision

A juvenile may also be charged under the general DUI laws that apply to everyone. Based on this section, a person may not: 1) drive a motor vehicle while “under the influence” of alcohol (as determined by signs of intoxication observed by the officer who pulled them over, or roadside sobriety tests), or 2) drive a motor vehicle with an alcohol blood content, by weight, of 0.08 percent or higher.

Penalties for the Crime(s)

Below are possible penalties for convictions based on the above offenses.

For a conviction based on the zero tolerance law or driving under the influence of alcohol (and/or drugs), driving privileges will be revoked for one year. Subsequent offenses may result in increased penalties. For a conviction based on the zero tolerance law, the offender will be required to attend a DUI education program. (California Driver Handbook – Alcohol and Drugs,

If convicted for the first time pursuant to CVC Sections 23140 or 23152, the offender will be required to attend an alcohol education program, and pursuant to Section 23140, if they are at least 18, their license will be revoked until they do so. (CVC Sections 23520, 23502)

Possible additional penalties for first time juvenile offenders convicted of an offense pursuant to Section 23152 include, but are not limited to (CVC Sections 23536-23538):

Jail time, ranging from 2 days to 6 months

License suspension

Fines ranging from $390 to $1000

If it is not a first time offense or if the offender has already been convicted of certain other offenses, and any of this happened within 10 years of the current offense, then the penalties may be more serious (CVC Sections 23540-23552).


Possible defenses to DUI charges include, but are not limited to:

- The stop was illegal
- The testing equipment was faulty
- The police officer(s) involved did not follow proper procedures
- There was a medical or dietary reason for the alcohol being present

Related Offenses

1. California Vehicle Code Section 23153 applies to DUI situations that include
another crime being committed at the same time as the DUI offense, or the
failure to adhere to driving-related duties, and where one of these things causes
injury to someone else.
- Also related to this section are Sections 191.5 through 192.5 of the California
Penal Code, which deal with vehicular manslaughter and may carry very serious consequences.
2. Specifically for juveniles (CVC Section 23224):
- It is illegal for a juvenile to knowingly have alcoholic drinks in a car that they are driving, unless they are accompanied by an adult meeting certain
requirements, and it’s for transportation purposes. If charged with this, they may
use as a defense the fact that an adult gave them reasonable instructions
regarding the alcohol. In addition, a juvenile who works for certain
licensed employers may also transport alcohol while not accompanied, under
certain conditions.
- Juvenile passengers are prohibited from possessing or controlling alcoholic
drinks, with their knowledge, unless certain adults are with them and it’s for
transportation purposes. The defense and licensed employers exceptions listed
above are also applicable here.

How We Can Help

As is evident, a DUI offense can have serious results. If you or someone you know is involved in an underage drunk driving situation in the San Diego area, it is important that you immediately seek help from an expert. The Ross Law Center offers the resources, expertise and experience needed to help you navigate a situation that may be confusing and intimidating. Their team of lawyers has handled hundreds of criminal law defense cases, and offers quality and personalized services. Call 858-805-5772 now for your FREE DUI consultation, and let the experienced and dedicated attorneys at the Ross Law Center take the reins.