According to authorities, five people were injured, two critically, early Tuesday morning during a suspected DUI crash that involved multiple cars. The driver of the alleged responsible car is 19.
Just after midnight Van Nuys police were called to the accident at the intersection of Victory and Van Nuys boulevards. According to Sgt. Jodie McGee of the Los Angeles Police Department, the 19-year-old driver and 15-year-old passenger were traveling southbound on Van Nuys Blvd in a white Volkswagen Passat. The driver ran a red light and collided with a dark-colored Chevy Trailblazer SUV. The SUV had two female occupants.
On impact, the Trailblazer overturned, landing on the hood of the Passat and against another car: a white minivan. The minivan was being driven by a 20-year-old woman. She had stopped at the intersection. A fourth vehicle was also involved.
Victims in DUI Accident
Five people had to be transported to hospitals. Two were in critical condition. The conditions of the other three are not known at this time.
According to the Police Department, a preliminary sobriety test was administered to the Passat’s driver, as he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.
“We have an officer with him at the hospital,” said McGee. Referring to California’s legal minimum drinking age of 21, he added: “As you know, a 19-year-old can have zero alcohol level in his system.”
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated, is defined as: operating a means of conveyance while excessive amounts of alcohol, or any kind of controlled substance, are present in the body. This is a serious and common offense. Because of this, all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, have laws that make it a crime for anyone to operate a motor vehicle if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent or higher for people that are 21 and older. For people that are under the age of 21, for whom it is illegal to be under the influence of alcohol due to drinking age laws, the BAC percentage is much lower. Underage drinking and driving laws and the consequences for underage DUI are less consistent across each state. We will cover California’s consequences below.
Underage Drinking Statistics
Here are some statistics about drinking and driving:
- 28% of 15- to 20-year-old drivers who were killed in car accidents had been drinking
- In that same age category, when you break it down by gender: 24% of male drivers involved in fatal accidents were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. 12% of female drivers involved in fatal accidents were under the influence of alcohol during the crash.
- When they were polled, 28.5% of U.S. high school students admitted they had ridden in a car at least once while the driver was under the influence of alcohol.
- Adding to the danger of the situation, teens are less likely to wear seat-belts when alcohol is in their systems. 74% of the drivers in this age range, who were involved in fatal accidents, were not wearing their seat-belts at the time of impact.
Improvement in Statistics
Those these numbers are shocking, they have improved. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, since minimum drinking age laws were established, 24,560 lives have been saved. The agency estimates that nearly 1,000 lives were saved in just 2005 alone. Yet underage drinking statistics still have a long way to go. In 2005 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health found this to be true:
- 41% of children have consumed more than just a few sips of alcohol by the time they reach 8thgrade. And 20% of 8th graders have admitted to being drunk at least once.
- That number only increases in high school: 75% of high school seniors admit to consuming more than a few sips of alcohol by the time they graduated high school. And 58% of seniors admit to have drank to the point of drunkenness at least once.
- 28.2 % which breaks down to approximately 10.8 million people in the age range of 15- and 20-years-old have reported drinking alcohol in the last month. Of that, 18.8 percent reported binge drinking. And 6% say they are heavy drinkers.
Underage DUI in California – Zero Tolerance Police
When it comes to underage drinking and driving California has a zero tolerance policy. That clearly means that you are guilty of underage drinking and driving when:
- You are under the age of 21, and you drive with any detectable alcohol in your system.
Ramifications of Underage DUI Charge
There are various consequences of being charged with an underage DUI. And there are many factors that determine the ramifications you will face.
Mandatory one-year license suspension: you can face a possible one-year suspension of your license, even if you aren’t “legally” drunk (meaning you have a BAC of 0.08 or higher).
Depending on your BAC and your driving history, you can face the following:
- A fine of $100 or more,
- Mandatory DUI school,
- Three to five years of DUI probation, and /or
- Time in jail.
There are three or more separate charges for underage drinking and driving based on California laws. And in a typical underage DUI arrest, the police will charge you for each law that is applicable – even if the charges appear duplicative. These are the common laws that underage drivers can be charged with violating:
- Vehicle Code 23136 – underage (under 21) driving with a BAC of .01% or greater. Violating Vehicle Code 23136 VC is not a crime. Penalty: one-year suspension of your driver’s license.
- Vehicle Code 23140 -underage (under 21) driving with a BAC of .05% or greater. This Code makes it an infraction for anyone under 21 to drive with a BAC of .05% or greater. An infraction does not result in jail time. Penalties:
- A one-year suspension of your driver’s license (if this is your first offense),
- A fine of $100 (if this is your first offense), and
- If you are 18 or over, you must attend a mandatory alcohol education program of three months or longer.
- Vehicle Code 23152 – driving (at any age) while:
- actually impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, or
- with a BAC of .08% or greater;
- This is a misdemeanor under California law. Penalties for first-time offenders include:
- Suspension of your driver’s license,
- Three to five years of informal (“summary”) probation,
- Fines of $390 to $1,000,
- A 3-month or 9-month alcohol and/or drug education program, and
- Up to six months in custody.
- Vehicle Code 23224 – People under 21 are not allowed to carry alcohol inside a vehicle unless:
- the container is full, sealed, and unopened, and
- they are:
- accompanied by a parent or other specified adult,
- getting rid of the alcohol because their parent or such an adult told them to, or
- carrying it as part of their job and they are working for someone with a legitimate liquor license.
- This is a misdemeanor, and penalties can include:
- Impoundment of your vehicle for up to 30 days,
- A fine of up to $1,000, and
- A one-year suspension of your driver’s license
You can also face additional misdemeanor or felony charges if you injure or kill someone while driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This applies to all driving ages.
Additional Underage Drinking Consequences
In addition to any of the above applicable charges, if you are convicted of an underage DUI you must report it on your college and employment applications under the criminal history section. An underage DUI charge also counts toward your criminal history score if you are subsequently convicted of a federal crime.
Defenses to Underage Drinking
If you are arrested for underage drinking you should immediately call a DUI defense attorney. There are numerous defenses a DUI attorney can employ to help fight your California DUI charges. Here are some common ones:
- You weren’t driving
- The DUI testing equipment (breathalyzer test) wasn’t working properly
- The person performing the DUI chemical test did not follow proper procedures,
- You were within the margin of error for an acceptable BAC result,
- Your BAC was rising at the time of the test (this would indicate that your BAC was actually lower when you were driving)
- There was another source of alcohol – such as moutwash
- You had a medical condition such as GERD or acid reflux
- You were on a high protein / low carbohydrate diet
- Your traffic stop was unlawful
- Your arrest was unlawful
- The officer failed to advise you of your rights
Even if you are accused and charged with a DUI, an experience DUI defense lawyer will be able to negotiate in order to help get your charges reduced. There are many complications that can arise when you are charged with a DUI. The laws are complicated and hard to maneuver without the experience of a skilled DUI lawyer. A lawyer will help remove the stress and difficulty of combating this accusation.