When an early Tuesday morning multiple car DUI accident occurred, resulting in five injuries, two critically, the alleged driver was only 19.
Accidents from DUI
The police were called just after midnight to the scene of the accident. The 19-year old driver and the 15-year old passenger had been traveling southbound on a four-lane highway in a white Volkswagen Passat. The driver had run a red light after which they collided with a Chevy Trailblazer SUV containing two female.
After the impact, the SUV overturned and landed on the hood of the Passat and a minivan which was driven by a 20-year old who had been stopped at an intersection. There was also a fourth vehicle involved.
DUI Accident Victims
The DUI accident resulted in five people being taken to local hospitals, two of whom were listed in critical condition. The condition of the others were not revealed.
The Police Department reported the preliminary sobriety test administered to the 19-year ol Passat driver indicated he was intoxicated.
“We have an officer with him at the hospital,” said an officer. In California the minimum legal drinking age is 21. The officer further stated, “As you know, a 19-year-old can have zero alcohol level in his system.”
Driving While Under the Influence
Driving while intoxicated is “driving under the influence” or “DUI.” It’s defined as “operating a means of conveyance while excessive amounts of alcohol, or any kind of controlled substance, are present in the body.”
DUI is a serious and all too often a common offense. All 50 states, including the District of Columbia, have laws making it a crime for anybody to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) of 0.08% or higher if the person is 21 or older. If the person is under 21, it’s illegal to for them to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The BAC for a person under 21 is much lower than 0.08%.
The consequences of underage drinking and driving varies from state to state. California laws governing underage DUI are discussed below.
Statistics for Underage Drinking
Some statistics for drinking and driving include:
- 28% of underage drivers, ages 15 to 20, who were killed in car accidents were drinking
- In that same age range, 24% of male drivers are involved in DUI-related fatal accidents compared to 12% of female drivers who are involved in DUI-related accidents.
- When polled, 28.5% of high school students in the U.S. admitted that at least once they rode in a car driven by a driver under the influence.
- Adding to the danger, teenage drivers tend to not wear seat-belts if they have been drinking. In this age group, 74% of the drivers involved in fatal accidents did not have seat belts on when the impact occurred.
Statistics Improvement for DUI
Although the numbers may be shocking, they have been improving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that since laws were established for a minimum drinking age, over 24,000 lives have been saved. They estimate nearly 1,000 were saved in 2005 alone. Although there’s still a long way to go to improve these figures, the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2005 states the following:
- 41% of children have drunk a few sips of alcohol by the 8th grade, and 20% of them have admitted to being drunk at least once.
- 75% of high school seniors say they’ve consumed more than a few sips by the time they graduate, and 5% of them have admitted to being drunk at least once.
- Approximately 10.8 million people between 15 and 20 had said they’ve drunk alcohol in the past month, 18.8% of which were binge drinking. 6% have admitted to being heavy drinkers.
Zero Tolerance Police for California Underage DUI
California has a zero tolerance policy when it involves underage drinking while driving. This means if you are an underage driver and drinking you are guilty when you are under 21 and drive with detectable alcohol in your system.
Ramifications of Charges for Underage DUI
There are many and ramifications if a person is charged with underage DUI.
There is a mandatory one-year license suspension whether you are “legally” drunk or not. This means you have a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher.
Based on your blood alcohol content and driving history, below are some things you could face:
- $100 or more fine,
- Mandatory school for DUI,
- 3-5 years probation for DUI, and /or
- Jail time.
Additional charges in California for underage drinking and driving apply. For a typical arrest for underage DUI you will be charged with each applicable law, even if they appear to be duplicates. Some of the more common laws for violating underage drivers include:
Vehicle Code 23136 covers drivers under 21 with BAC of 0.01% or more. Violating this isn’t a crime, but the penalty is a suspension of your driver’s license of one year.
Vehicle Code 23140 covers drivers under 21 with BAC of 0.05% or more. This is an infraction but doesn’t include jail time. Penalties include:
- Driver’s license suspension of one year if it’s a first offense,
- $100 fine if it’s a first offense, and
- Mandatory alcohol education program for three or more months if you’re over 18.
Vehicle Code 23152 covers driving at any age while:
- impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, or
- having a BAC of 0.08% or more;
- Under California law it’s a misdemeanor with the following penalties for first time offenders:
- Driver’s license suspension,
- 3-5 year informal (i.e., “summary”) probation,
- $390 to $1,000 fine,
- 3 to 9 month education program for drug and/or alcohol, and
- Up to six months in custody.
Vehicle Code 23224 – If under 21 you are not permitted to carry alcohol inside a vehicle except in the following situations:
- the container is full, sealed, and unopened, and
- they are:
- accompanied by parent or other specified adult,
- a parent or adult told them to get rid of the alcohol, or
- it is part of their job to carry it and they’re working for a person who possesses a legitimate liquor license.
- This is a misdemeanor with the following penalties:
- Vehicle will be impounded up to 30 days,
- A $1,000 or more fine, and
- Suspension of driver’s license for one year.
If you injure or kill somebody will driving under the influence you can face additional misdemeanor or felony charges. This applies at any age.
Additional Underage Drinking Consequences
In addition to the above, if you’re convicted of these charges you must report this information on college or employment applications in the criminal history section. It also counts toward the score of your criminal history if you are then convicted in a federal crime.
Underage Drinking Defenses
You need to immediately call a DUI defense attorney if you have been arrested and charged with underage drinking. California DUI charges had numerous defenses which a DUI attorney can use to fight the charges. Some of these defenses include:
- You were not the one driving
- The testing equipment for DUI was not properly working,
- The person who performed the DUI chemical test did not follow the proper procedures,
- You were within the margin of error for an acceptable BAC result,
- Your BAC was rising at the time the test was done, which could indicate it was lower while you were driving,
- There was another alcohol source – as in mouthwash,
- You had a medical condition such acid reflux or GERD,
- You were on a diet of high protein / low carbohydrate,
- Your traffic stop was unlawful,
- Your arrest was unlawful,
- The officer did not advise you of your rights.
If you’ve been accused and charged with DUI, an experience DUI defense lawyer such as Sevens Legal, APC, can help negotiate to get your charges reduced. A DUI charge has many complications making it difficult to navigate without the help of an experienced and skilled DUI lawyer. A DUI lawyer can also help remove the stress and difficulty relating to being accused of a DUI. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.
Criminal Defense Attorneys
3555 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: (619) 297-2800