It finally happened. What we all expected. Justin Bieber, was arrested for speeding and driving under the influence in Miami, Florida early this morning. Apparently, the police stopped Mr. Bieber, who was driving a yellow Lamborghini, for speeding and soon determined that he was also driving on a suspended Georgia license (see http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/justin-bieber-arrested-miami-beach/story?id=21634208) . After evaluating Mr. Bieber with a tests to determine if he was driving under the influence, the police arrested Mr. Bieber for DUI after he also admitted to having beer and prescription drugs in his system. Because he is a minor, there is zero tolerance in Florida for being under the influence and the standard to prove such a charge is different than if Mr. Bieber was legally able to drink.
It appears that Florida has a first time offender program that Mr. Bieber may eligible for which could lead to the dismissal of charges after a probationary period. Unfortunately, for minors who are arrested for DUI in California including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego county, an arrest and conviction for DUI for a minor can lead to severe consequences with respect to being able to drive as compared to an adult.
Consequences/Penalties with the California DMV for a Minor
If a minor is arrested and submits to a PAS (Preliminary Alcohol Screening) roadside breath test or takes a standard breathalyzer or blood test and has a blood alcohol level of 0.01 or higher, their license is subject to an Administrative suspense with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Specifically, California Vehicle Code section 23136 mandates that the DMV suspend or revoke the driving privileges of a minor(person under 21 years of age) for 1 year who:
a. Takes a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test, or a chemical test (blood or breath test) with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.01% or more, or
- Refuses to take, or fails to complete, a PAS or other chemical test.
If the arrest is a first offense, a minor may be eligible for a critical need restrictive license after a 30 days suspension pursuant to California Vehicle Code sections 12513 and 13353.8. It may be difficult to obtain a critical need license from the California DMV as they are only issued if a minor driver can show:
a. A specific critical need condition exists, and
- All other transportation is inadequate.
Only first offenders who completed a PAS or other chemical test are eligible to apply for a critical need restricted driver’s license as set forth in California Vehicle Code section 13353.8. It is imperative that when a minor or adult for that matter is arrested for DUI, that they contact a qualified DUI criminal defense lawyer who can advise them how to handle both a DMV hearing and any criminal charges a minor may face after being arrested for DUI. Often times, an experienced criminal defense attorney can challenge a DUI stop and detention in many instances be able to have the DUI charges reduced or dismissed and allow the minor the ability to avoid jail time in juvenile hall and/or a long driver’s license suspension.
A DUI Case for a Minor in California Criminal Court
Besides being faced with a driver’s license suspension with the DMV, a minor arrested for DUI will face criminal charges for DUI in a California Superior Court whether it be in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside or any other county in California. For cases where a minor is tested with having a Blood Alcohol Level between 0.05% to 0.07%, they will be exposed to charges of an infraction under California Vehicle code section 23140. Because such a charges is an infraction as opposed to a felony or misdemeanor, a minor will not be exposed to jail or prison time. However, a conviction under section 23140 will result in penalties including:
a. A driver’s license suspension for 1 year;
b. Attendance and completion of at least a 12 week alcohol program; and
c. Participation in a “Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program” which may include a visit to a morgue/coroner’s office, an alcohol or drug dependency center or an ER to observe victims of DUI or persons suffering from severe stages of drug abuse or alcoholism.
If a minor has a Blood Alcohol Level of .08% or higher, they will face criminal misdemeanor or possible felony charges depending on factors such as whether a person was injured or killed in an accident when the minor was driving under the influence.
DUI Misdemeanor or Felony Charges for a Minor in California Superior Court
When arrested while driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, a minor will most times be subject to the same criminal penalties as an adult. As you may know, a DUI conviction in Los Angeles and California in general, carries a number of penalties, including a license suspension, fine and potential jail sentence pursuant to California Vehicle Code section 23152, et. seq.. With a first time DUI conviction, the court may impose a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000, as well as suspend your driver’s license for up to four months. Depending on the circumstances, you may also have to spend anywhere from four days to six months behind bars, attend DUI school, perform community service or CALTRANS, and/or have a vehicle ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.
A second DUI conviction within 10 years of your first conviction carries up to a one-year jail sentence, $1,000 fine, one-year license suspension, and three to five years of probation. Subsequent convictions increase with penalties DUI conviction. A Court can impose additional punishment if you had an extremely high BAC (above 0.15%), were traveling with a passenger under the age of 14, or were driving 20 miles or more above the speed limit at the time of your arrest.
Minors are not immune to these penalties even if the matter is heard in Juvenile Court and should immediately consult with an experienced criminal and juvenile criminal defense lawyer when arrested for DUI.
Moreover, if a minor kills or injures another person while driving, a prosecutor will in most instances attempt to have the minor treated as an adult and have the minor’s case contested in adult court.
In most cases where a person pleads guilty to a DUI or similar alcohol related driving offense including pleas of guilty or no contest to Wet Reckless charges, a Judge will remind a person that if a person kills another while driving under the influence they can be charged with murder. Such warning is not only true but probably the single greatest reason that DUI laws in the United States including California are so stringent.
If you kill a person while driving under the influence in California including Los Angeles and Orange County, you can be charged with Second Degree Murder commonly known as a “Watson Murder.” Under a Second Degree Murder charge, a person is accused of intentionally committing a dangerous act with knowledge of the danger to, and with conscious disregard for, human life. This implied malice is set forth in California Penal Code section 187 as an alternative means of finding intent for murder. If convicted of Second Degree Murder in California, a person faces up to 15 years to life in prison pursuant to Penal Code section 190(a).
Depending on the circumstances of and egregiousness of the accident, prosecutors do have the option of charging a person with Vehicular Manslaughter which carries a sentence as low as 1 year in County Jail or up to 6 years in state prison for vehicular manslaughter convictions involving gross negligence under California Penal Code section 191.5. A person accused of such a serious crime, should always attempt to consult with and/or retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. Often times a person’s past criminal record and their blood alcohol level will dictate whether an experienced DUI defense attorney can get the case dismissed or reduced to a charge involving little or no jail time.
Even if you are a “Belieber”, I wouldn’t follow many of Mr. Bieber’s driving habits and obviously would avoid drinking and driving with any amount of alcohol in your system especially if you are a minor given the California’s “zero tolerance” laws. However, if you are arrested for DUI, I would immediately consult with an experienced criminal DUI lawyer to determine your ability to defend potentially life changing DUI charges.