The legal age to drink alcohol in California is 21. Individuals in Los Angeles can face serious legal repercussions if they consume alcohol before this age. The penalties can be exceptionally steep if an individual drinks alcohol and then gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
While those over the age of 21 will only face a DUI if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of over 0.08%, those under 21 can face consequences if any alcohol is found in their system when they’re behind the wheel.
Different Levels of DUI for Drivers Under 21
California Vehicle Code Section 23140: Under 21 DUI with Blood Alcohol Content Between 0.05-0.07 Percent is one of the legal codes used to prosecute drivers under 21 who drive under the influence (DUI). When it comes to drivers who are not old enough to legally drink alcohol in any amount, the precise level of your BAC is very important.
Drivers under 21 with alcohol in their system could find themselves facing charges under various California Vehicle Codes, depending on the level of alcohol found in their system. Instead of facing the consequences of VC Section 23140, drivers could face repercussions under the following vehicle codes if they drank more or less:
- California Vehicle Code Section 23136: Under 21 DUI with Any Measurable Amount of Alcohol
- California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b): Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 Percent or Higher
Additionally, under 21 drivers with alcohol in their system could face consequences under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a): Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs. The Simmrin Law Group can help you understand the differences between these various charges and their legal consequences.
The Definition of VC 23140
California VC 23140 is used to prosecute drivers under the age of 21 caught operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) between 0.05-0.07. This means that their BAC would be close to the legal limit for drivers over the age of 21.
Police officers may measure an individual’s BAC at a traffic stop through the use of chemical tests. Drivers over the age of 21 are not required to submit to tests requested by police officers unless they are already placed under arrest. However, drivers under the age of 21 are legally obligated to submit to these requests at any time.
Examples of VC 23140 Violations
An 18-year-old has a drink while out with some friends but does not feel impaired. He gets in his vehicle and begins driving home, swerving around on the road. A police officer pulls him over with probable cause and finds his BAC to be at 0.06. The driver is arrested under VC 23140.
A driver who turns 21 next month has a drink and then decides to go pick up dinner. She runs a red light on the way to the restaurant and is pulled over by a police officer. Her BAC is reported at 0.05, and she faces charges under VC 23140.
Penalties for Driver Under 21 With a BAC Between 0.05-0.07 Percent
VC 23140 is a harsher charge than VC 23136: Under 21 with Any Measurable Amount of Alcohol. Both of these types of violations are considered infractions. That means that unlike with a misdemeanor or felony, the offender does not face the possibility of jail time.
The main consequence for a driver charged under VC 23136 is a potential license suspension of up to a year. For a conviction under VC 23140, the offender still faces a year-long license suspension as well as additional punishment, which can include:
- Fines of Up to $100 for a first offense increasing by $100 for subsequent violations
- Completion of an alcohol education class
- Completion of a youthful offender alcohol program
Drivers under 21 with a BAC at 0.08 or above may face harsher misdemeanor charges for driving under the influence. If someone is injured in an accident resulting from a DUI, the driver could even be looking at a felony charge.
Schedule a Hearing With the DMV
As with any DUI charge, a driver charged under VC 23140 will need to request a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles. When arrested for any form of DUI charge, the DMV will be notified and will move to suspend your license in a process completely separate from your criminal case.
Your license can be suspended by the DMV before your case ever goes to trial, and you could lose your license even if the court eventually finds you to be innocent of the charges. Drivers have only 10 days after an arrest to ask for this administrative hearing. Failing to request a hearing results in an automatic license suspension.
Defenses for VC 23140 Charges
Drivers under 21 who are arrested for having small amounts of alcohol in their system do have legal options. A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles may be able to build a defense by proving that a police officer conducted a DUI stop without probable cause. Evidence against a driver can be suppressed if a traffic stop is not conducted legitimately.
A lawyer may also be able to block chemical test results. Breathalyzers and PAS devices do not have a perfect record for accuracy. These flaws mean that the machines sometimes return inaccurate results that can be disputed in court.
Help Dealing With VC 23140 Charges
Drivers charged under California Vehicle Code Section 23140: Under 21 DUI With Blood Alcohol Content Between 0.05-0.07 Percent do not have to face these accusations alone. The Simmrin Law Group offers a free initial case evaluation for all DUI cases. Find out more about your options by giving us a call or completing our online contact form.