Orange County DUI Crashes Involving Underage Drivers

Orange County cities have the highest number of crashes involving underage drinkers in California. Laguna Hills had the highest rate among very small cities and Fullerton had the worst rate among mid-sized cities. Buena Park came in at number 5 and Anaheim had the second-highest rate among the state’s biggest cities. As an Orange County DUI Defense Attorney with 20 years of experience, I have seen enforcement agencies become more and more aggressive when it comes to underage drinking and driving.

Some attribute the high underage alcohol related crashes to the beach towns as well as the college towns in Orange County. A college town might have a higher number of underage drinkers, which is what Fullerton has suggested is the explanation for it’s high rates.

In Orange County California, being under 21 and driving with a blood alcohol of 0.01% or greater subjects you to the penalties under California’s “Zero Tolerance Law”. This means that even if you have only one drink, you may be found guilty of the offense. You do not need to be found to be “under the influence”, only that you consumed some measure of alcohol. Penalties for a minor being convicted of DUI vary according to the circumstances. Violating California Vehicle Code 23140 is an infraction and therefore not filed as a misdemeanor or felony. However, certain circumstances can cause the punishment to be more severe. Possible sentences include three to five years of informal probation; $390.00 to $1,000.00 in fines; up to one year in county jail; mandatory court-appointed alcohol class; and a six month driver’s license suspension.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has it’s own punishments/consequences for minor’s drinking and driving. If a minor violates the Zero Tolerance Law he or she will lose their driver’s license for one year, be required to attend and complete a minimum three month alcohol program; and possibly be ordered to participate in a “Youthful Drunk Driving Violation Program”. Participation in this program includes a visit to an E.R., the coroner’s office or a chemical dependency recovery center.

If your son or daughter has been charged with Underage DUI, or any other juvenile offense, it is important that you seek the advise of an experienced Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney. The rules are different in juvenile court. As an example, in juvenile court, there is no bail and no right to a jury trial. The procedures are different. At the first hearing, the court will decide whether your child will go home with you or whether he/she will stay in custody until the next court date. Having an experienced juvenile defense attorney at the first court hearing may make the difference. A good juvenile defense attorney will gather positive information about your son or daughter’s background. Report cards, achievement awards, sports awards and accomplishments can help when speaking with the District Attorney and Judge.

If you would like to know more about Underage DUI or any juvenile criminal matter, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg at his Irvine, CA office at 949-484-8008