Under 21 and DUI
For the most part, this is directed to individuals 18 to 20 years of age and their parents. The treatment of those under 18 years of age is handled in the juvenile courts and I’ll share some thoughts at the end of this page.
Experimentation with alcohol is fairly commonplace in this age group, in spite of the fact that it is illegal. Given this fact, it is this author’s position that you should confront the issue before it becomes a problem but be prepared to manage your disappointment if or when your child suffer the consequences of a DUI arrest. If you have had open discussions about the topic, you and your child may never have to deal with the content of this article. If it happens anyway, I hope you have the type of relationship where your child trusts you enough to come to you for help first.
What is a Parent’s Criminal or Civil Responsibility?
Although we “might” not be legally responsible for our adult child’s DUI, I hope most would agree that we love them and want to help them minimize the short and long term consequences and effects. (I say “might” because if your child is still living with you, driving your vehicle, you are a co-signer on their vehicle loan, they are on your insurance, etc. you just might find yourself civilly liable.) If your child is 18 or older, they have a right to the services of a Public Defender for the criminal case. There is no such right to a free or discounted attorney for the DMV Administrative Per Se hearing. Since the two are intertwined, there is an advantage to having one attorney handling both issues.
Considerations Other Than Court and DMV
Aside from having to deal with the court and DMV, there are other possible issues that may affect you and your child. If your child loses his or her job, the loss of income will likely have an impact on both of you. If your child is applying to or in college, there may be some difficulty with admissions and financial scholarships may be affected. Longer term, there may be additional hurdles with professional licenses. Although in California an individual may apply (relief is discretionary with the court) for expungement of a DUI, this doesn’t truly make it disappear. CA Penal Code §1203.4 does have some real benefits but the record reflects that the DUI was dismissed after conviction.
Other Possible Charges for Under 21 Drivers
Once a person turns 18, they are subject to all the same DUI laws as every other adult. There are also a couple additional charges that I see frequently, that I’d like to address first, where the blood alcohol content (BAC) is .01or higher (VC§23136) or .05-.07 (VC§23140). Neither of these counts as a prior DUI for purposes of the criminal prosecution of future DUIs but both count as priors for administrative actions by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV). In plain terms, this means longer license suspensions.
How Long Will My Child’s License Suspension Last?
The typical license suspension for a first offense is one (1) year. Your child may apply for a “critical need” license after thirty (30) days. This is not automatic and you must be able to convince DMV that there truly is a critical need, rather than just a convenience for you or your child. You can find more information about “Critical Need” applications on DMV’s website.
Will Our Insurance Rates Increase?
That depends on whether or not your insurance company finds out about a DUI conviction or an Administrative Suspension from DMV. We believe there is some wisdom in not immediately telling your own insurance company. If the DUI did not involve an accident, there is a way to perhaps insulate you and your child from an increase in premiums. This requires making arrangements for a SR22 (special type of insurance that DMV requires be kept on file with them for a period of three years) through a company other than your regular insurance company. There are a few brokers that understand what you are trying to accomplish and can assist you with finding the right company for you and your family. My preference is to use an insurance company that will be able to provide an appropriate level of coverage if the primary insurance company finds out about the DUI. Feel free to contact us at (916) 444-3300 for more information or a referral to a broker that can assist you.
Juvenile DUI Cases
The Judicial Council of California produced an informational booklet that provides most of the information you will need. You can find this booklet on their website.