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Vista Underage DUI Defense Lawyers


Representing Young Adults and Juveniles in North County DUI Cases

A DUI at any age is serious, but California has far stricter laws for drivers under the age of 21. If a minor is pulled over with any amount of alcohol in their system, they can face a one-year license suspension, and the punishments only scale up from there. But DUIs are not clear-cut, and the police may wrongfully charge you for a false positive, or solely on the objective signs of intoxication. With the right defense, you may be able to fight these charges.

If you or your child have been charged with an underage DUI, do not hesitate to contact a knowledgeable Vista underage DUI defense attorney at jD LAW. Our founding attorney is a former LAPD officer with more than 30 years of experience representing clients in juvenile courts. He can investigate the details of your child’s arrest and diligently craft a strong defense. Contact jD LAW at (760) 630-2000 to schedule a free consultation.

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Vista DUI Laws for Drivers Under 21 Years Old

When a driver who is under the age of 21 is pulled over for a DUI, there are three possible charges that can apply, each depending on the amount of blood alcohol content (BAC) in the driver’s system. BAC is calculated with a breathalyzer test, but there are specific rules and procedures that officers must follow when administering these tests; otherwise, they may end up registering a false positive. In addition, officers may require you to take a chemical test at a police station for a more accurate reading.

0.01% BAC or Higher

According to Vehicle Code 23136 VC, California’s Zero Tolerance Law, if you are under 21 and register a BAC of 0.01% to 0.04%, then the officer who pulled you over will confiscate your license, provide you with a paper one, and notify you of a DMV hearing you must attend within 10 calendar days. This hearing will take place at a local North County DMV office rather than a criminal court.

Failure to attend this hearing can lead to your license being automatically suspended for one year. However, even if you do attend this hearing, you will still be required to defend yourself. DMV hearings are difficult to win, but with a skilled Vista DUI lawyer at your side, you may be able to have the ruling overturned in a higher court and have your license returned to you.

0.05% BAC or Higher

A BAC of 0.05% to 0.07% includes the same one-year license suspension as mentioned above, but it also includes additional penalties under Vehicle Code 23140 VC. If the breathalyzer test registers a BAC of 0.05% or higher, the officer who pulled you over will take you to the police station to administer a chemical test and confirm the breathalyzer’s results. If you still show a BAC of 0.05% to 0.07%, you will be charged with an infraction, which is a lesser criminal charge that comes with no jail time.

In Vista, a BAC of 0.05% to 0.07% will lead to a $100 fine if it is your first offense, a one-year license suspension, and a mandatory 30-day DUI program for drivers ages 18 to 20 years old.

0.08% BAC or Higher

Any BAC level of 0.08% or higher falls under Vehicle Code 23152(b), which is California’s primary DUI law. Under this law, you can receive jail time, steep fines, and other penalties depending on whether this is your first offense. For Vista defendants, these cases are typically tried at the North County Regional Center, located on 325 South Melrose Dr.

For a first-time offender, a DUI can result in:

  • A fine of $360 to $1,000
  • A one-year license suspension
  • Informal probation for three to five years or juvenile probation for minors
  • A 30-day vehicle impoundment
  • Mandatory DUI school for three to nine months
  • 48 hours to six months in a county jail (but only in rare cases, for adults)

Prior convictions can increase the punishments for a DUI. For most drivers pulled over for a DUI, the charge will remain at a misdemeanor, but if this is your fourth or subsequent offense or someone was injured in an accident, then you can face a felony charge.

In addition, if your minor child committed one of these felony DUI offenses, he or she can be charged as an adult, which will drastically change the course of his or her life.

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Juvenile vs. Criminal Charges

While California can still impose its Zero Tolerance Law and other DUI charges on a driver under the age of 18, the criminal process for juveniles is different than for adults. Any minor that is charged with a DUI will be tried in a juvenile court – typically the Juvenile Court in San Diego – unless they committed a felony offense and, if found guilty, can be declared a ward of the court. As a ward of the court, the juvenile court will have limited control over your child’s life, having the power to instill a curfew, order community service, and require juvenile probation.

It is important to note that being declared a ward of the court is not the same as a criminal conviction. Technically, it is referred to as an “adjudication,” and while the DUI charge will appear on your child’s juvenile record, it will not be counted as a prior DUI conviction. This means that if your child is charged with a DUI as an adult, it would be their first offense under the law.

However, there are still lasting aftereffects of a juvenile DUI charge. For example, if your child is applying for college, the school can run a background check and deny him or her admittance for a BAC of 0.05% or higher. In addition, if your child is asked about any criminal charges while applying for a job, he or she is required to disclose any DUI charges and can be denied the job.

But a DUI conviction is not a foregone conclusion. jD LAW can advocate for reduced charges and alternative sentencing, in addition to arguing for the case to be dismissed altogether. Our law firm provides representation in criminal and juvenile courts, as well as DMV hearings. We can also work to have a juvenile record sealed with your county court so that your child’s future is not negatively impacted by a juvenile DUI charge.

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Defense Strategies for DUIs

While you may assume a DUI conviction is inevitable after your child is pulled over, that is simply not the case. DUIs rely heavily on police testimony and BAC tests, both of which can be riddled with errors and inaccurate conclusions. A breathalyzer test can register a false positive if improperly administered or if the subject has certain over-the-counter medication in his system, such as cough syrup.

That being said, you should always have your case reviewed by an experienced Vista DUI lawyer who can craft a rigorous and thorough defense. In some cases, we can negotiate with the district attorney to have your charges dropped altogether. If your case does go to a juvenile or criminal court, common strategies that we can use to fight DUI charges include:

  • Showing that the breathalyzer or chemical test registered a false positive
  • Arguing that the officer had no justification to pull you over
  • Demonstrating that the arresting officer only noted the objective signs of intoxication or that he or she did not follow proper procedures
  • Showing that the officer committed some form of misconduct

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Contact a Certified Criminal Law Specialist Today

Whether you or your child was charged with an underage DUI, you need an aggressive defense strategy to avoid serious criminal charges and a license suspension. At jD LAW, we specialize in defending Vista clients against DUIs and can use our in-depth knowledge of criminal procedures to defend you or your child from a conviction. A DUI can follow you for the rest of your life if you do not work with an experienced Vista criminal defense attorney, which is why you should not hesitate to contact jD LAW at (760) 630-2000. We offer every potential client a free, confidential consultation to discuss the charges against them.

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A note from James N. Dicks:

If you feel uncomfortable with an in-person meeting due to the recent surge in COVID-19, our office is offering remote appointments via phone and Zoom. Please call or email us to set up your appointment.


James N. Dicks
jD LAW, P.C.

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COVID-19 Announcement

If you feel uncomfortable with an in-person meeting due to the recent surge in COVID-19, our office is offering remote appointments via phone and Zoom. Please call or email us to set up your appointment.

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