Los Angeles DUI by Age Group: 21 and Under
While the driving under the influence statutes apply to all drivers on the road, there is often subtle differences regarding how cases are handled and what potential consequences can be expected depending on the age of the driver. Because they are not legally permitted to consume alcohol, drivers under the age of 21 who are charged with DUI in Los Angeles are often exposed to a variety of different and more severe penalties than those over the age of 21.
The legislature and courts have assigned more severe penalties and administrative consequences for DUI offenses committed by those under 21 due to the fact that these “youthful offenders” are not legally allowed to drink and become intoxicated, let alone operate a motor vehicle while under the influence. As a result, the license suspension for those under 21 who are caught drinking and driving is a full year instead of four months – which is the usual suspension length for those who are 21 or over. In addition, while driver who are 21 or over will not have their driving privileges suspended as long as their blood alcohol content was below 0.08 percent, drivers under 21 cannot drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. This means that if they are caught driving with a BAC of 0.01 percent or higher, they would risk losing their driver’s license for a full year. Unlike drivers who are 21 or over, there would be no ability to get a restricted license during the year suspension period.
Whether they admit to it or not, law enforcement officers tend to subconsciously target younger drivers when stopping vehicles on suspicion of driving under the influence. These more inexperienced drivers may be more likely to commit minor traffic infractions and thus could be pulled over by officers on a DUI patrol. In addition, while officers are supposed to not take factors such as age into account when conducting DUI checkpoint operations, it is often the case that younger drivers find themselves singled out for further investigation during these operations, especially when it is late at night.
On the criminal DUI case, judges and prosecutors tend to be very concerned when they see a DUI defendant who is under the age of 21. The court may be more willing to impose more onerous terms of probation on a younger defendant in order to send a message to the driver about the seriousness of impaired driving and also to make sure the defendant is exposed to programming intended to deter future DUI offenses. These programs may include a longer than usual alcohol education class, the Hospital and Morgue (“HAM”) program in which the defendant tours local ERs and morgues to see the consequences of DUI collisions and the MADD Victim Impact Panel (“VIP”) which features speakers who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers. The Court may also require jail time, community service or community labor to ensure that the underage driver effectively learns his or her lesson.
When a juvenile under the age of 18 is accused of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, his or her case would proceed in juvenile court. Juvenile court tends to operate very differently from adult court. The focus of juvenile court is rehabilitating the minor instead of purely imposing punishment. Typically, a juvenile DUI will require many follow up appearances in front of a juvenile court judge to assess and monitor the juvenile’s progress. A juvenile adjudication will still trigger a yearlong driver’s license suspension for those who have a juvenile petition sustained against them.
If you or a family member are under the age of 21 and have been arrested for a DUI offense, it is imperative that you meet with a knowledgeable and experienced Los Angeles DUI Lawyer right away. Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who knows how to effectively defend underage drivers who have been charged with DUI. Mr. Kraut handles both the criminal and DMV hearing to ensure that his clients’ rights are properly protected.
For more information about DUI offenses for those under the age of 21, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.