Driving under the influence is a serious charge, no matter how old you are or what state you are in when you are when arrested. It is even more dangerous when the driver is under 21 and involved in an accident while drinking or using drugs because they are not legally old enough to even purchase the alcohol in Los Angeles CA or any state. L.A. takes not being able to legally consume alcohol and driving while intoxicated very seriously, so drivers under the age of 21 who are charged with a DUI are exposed to more severe penalties than those over the age of 21.
The legal limit for alcohol consumption, when stopped for any reason, is 0.08. Anything over that is illegal, and the driver can be arrested, but they can also be arrested if the BAC registers at 0.05-0.07. Those who are under the age of 21 are treated exactly like the those over the age, but if it was the first DUI arrest for both of them, the one under 21 may have their license revoked for one year under “zero tolerance” whereas the adult over 21 would only have it suspended for six months.
The criminal courts in Los Angeles have decided that when someone underage is arrested, this presents an opportunity to impose restrictions that will send a substantial message to stop this behavior while still young. The penalties for the first DUI typically add up financially to over $10,000. The arrest is a misdemeanor under California law with penalties up to one year in jail, $1,000 in fines, up to five years of summary probation, mandatory alcohol education and a driver’s license suspension. This is where the “zero tolerance” policy would enforce a one-year suspension for those underage.
Young people under 21 have a lot going against them when they are arrested for a DUI.
• They are too young to purchase or drink alcoholic substances period.
• They have only been driving a short time, so they have not developed good reflexes when diving.
• A young system is not as tolerant to alcohol as an older one. They do not have to drink as much to be affected visually and conceptually.
• Zero tolerance automatically kicks in until you reach the age of 21.
• Young people are more likely to believe the myths that surround DUIs.
Myths Surrounding DUI Arrests
Young people have not had the time or experience to know the truth in many areas in life. The details that surround DUIs are not known by most adults and even less by those under 21. Here are some common myths that lead young arrestees astray in DUI arrests.
1. To throw off the results of the Breathalyzer Test, put a penny or other piece of metal in your mouth. Many people believe that the metal will throw off the test, so it will be invalid in court. The breath that is tested is actually a very deep breath from the lungs. The officer instructs the arrestee to “blow hard” when taking the test.
2. If I am making no mistakes when driving, I can’t get a DUI. The problem is, an officer can pull you over for many reasons, such as having a light out. If there are checkpoints set up, all vehicles must stop, so it would be unavoidable.
3. Do I have to obey everything the officer says? No, you have choices, but in order to make a wise choice, you need to be aware of what the law allows. For instance, giving a breath sample on the PAS device is not mandatory unless the driver is under 21 or they are already on probation for DUI; these people must follow instructions and give the PAS test.
4. By drinking coffee and eating, my BAC will go down. Drinking coffee and eating will often clear a person’s mind and wake them up in order to drive, but the BAC will not decrease to a legal level.
There are many college and fraternities in L.A., and many young people drink all night expecting to sleep for a few hours and eat something and be able to drive like they were sober. Officers pick them up in the morning on their way home, driving erratically or breaking traffic laws.
This information should wake up parents who have children living at home under the age of 21. It is virtually impossible to know where your children are and what they are doing at all times, but by taking the time to talk with them concerning their drinking and driving habits, they can learn young to avoid a path that leads to multiple arrests.