California has “zero tolerance” for underage drivers who are caught with any measurable amount of alcohol in their systems. This means that, unlike the standard of 0.08 percent blood alcohol content for drivers 21 years and older, drivers under the age of 21 are subject to legal consequences if they any measureable amount of alcohol in their system while driving.
According to California Vehicle Code section 23136, if someone under the age of 21 is caught with a blood alcohol content of 0.01 percent or more while driving, they face a one year suspension of their driver’s license. If the minor does not yet have their driver’s license, they face a one year delay in obtaining their license. If the minor refuses to submit to a chemical test, they face a one to three year suspension. A violation of section 23136 is considered a civil offense rather than a criminal offense enforced by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
If someone under the age of 21 is caught driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 to 0.07 percent, they are subject to California Vehicle Code section 23140. A violation of section 23140 is considered an infraction and carries a punishment of a $100 fine, loss of driving privileges for a year, a minimum three month alcohol program, and possibly participation in a “Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program.” The “Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program” often includes visitation to an E.R., a coroner’s office, or a chemical dependency recovery center. The fines increase to $200 if the minor is convicted of a second offense within a year, and $300 for a third conviction within a year.
If the minor is caught driving under the influence or have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, they are subject to California Vehicle Code section 23152. A violation of section 23152 is a misdemeanor and is usually charged for anyone, regardless of age, who drives under the influence or with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more. The typical punishment for a violation of section 23152 includes $390 to $1,000 in fines, three to five years of informal probation, up to a year in jail, a court approved DUI class, and a six month driver’s license suspension.