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Underage Drunk Driving in California

Under California law, an adult is commits a driving under the influence offense by driving a vehicle with a 0.08 blood alcohol content or higher. However, a motorist under the age of 21 is guilty of the same offense with a 0.05 blood alcohol content or higher. In order to prove a minor driving under the influence offense, the prosecutor needs to show (1) that the person committing the offense was at the time, under 21 years of age, (2) the minor was under the influence, and (3) that the minor had a 0.05 blood alcohol content or higher.

At the same time however, a minor’s driver license may be suspended for refusing to participate in a chemical testing. Once a minor is arrested for driving under the influence, the officer may request the minor to partake in a chemical test. If the minor refuses to take such test, the department of motor vehicles shall revoke the minor’s license for one to three years. For purposes of the administrative revocation hearing, the prosecutor only needs to show that the minor had a 0.01 blood alcohol content when asked to take a chemical test.

The minor may present evidence that she did not have a blood alcohol content o 0.01 or that the officer had no reasonable cause to stop her. Furthermore, the motorist may show a “critical need to drive” and ask the review board to apply a lesser punishment. A “critical need to drive” is defined in three different situations. The first situation is needing a vehicle to drive to school and school related activities, and the school or other transportation facilities are inadequate. The second situation is when the vehicle is needed to transport ill family members, and the transportation facilities are currently inadequate. The third situation is needing the vehicle to go to work, no other transportation is adequate, and the income is needed to support the family. Absence these three situations, there is no critical need.


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