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Underage DUI & the PAS Test

Each state has enacted its own laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI). While the penalties vary slightly, there are a lot of similarities between the states. For instance, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% in all states. It’s also against the law for drivers under the age of 21 to drink and drive, period.

As a general rule, the anti-drinking and driving laws are stricter for underage drinkers. Why? Because, history has proven that teenagers and young adults have a problem with drinking and driving for multiple reasons, such as having limited experience with drinking and with driving. Young adults are also in the habit of “binge drinking,” which amounts to four or more alcoholic drinks for females and five or more drinks for males in a single drinking incident.

All states have enacted “zero tolerance” laws that make it illegal for drivers under the age of 21 to drink and drive. While the BAC limits for young drivers range from 0.00 to 0.02% BAC, in California, the limit for underage drivers is 0.00%.

What is the PAS Test?

Officers in California use what is called the preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS) to measure a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The PAS test is a handheld device and the DUI suspect is asked to provide a breath sample during the traffic stop. If you are under the age of 21 and a police officer suspects that you have been drinking and driving, he or she will ask you to take a PAS test. If the PAS test is not available, you will be asked to take another chemical test, such as a blood test or a more sophisticated breath test down at the station.

(Note: If you are under 21 and you refused to take the PAS test, your driver license will be automatically suspended for one year.)

When the PAS Results Are Positive

If the PAS test or another chemical test shows that you have alcohol in your system, even just 0.01%, your driver license will be confiscated. If the officer believes that you can get home safely, he or she will issue you a temporary driver’s license. The officer will inform you that “your driver license will be suspended,” which will take effect in 30 days from the DUI stop.

What if My BAC Was Above .08%?

Let’s say that your BAC was at or above .08% (the legal limit for drivers over 21). In that case, the officer will fill out a DMV form called the Administrative Per Se Suspension Revocation Order and Temporary License. When you receive this form, you will be informed about your driver’s license suspension.

The form will indicate that you have the right to request a DMV hearing. Please be advised that if your BAC was .08% or above, you will have to go to criminal court for a hearing, and you will be subjected to court-imposed fines and penalties for a California DUI, regardless of the fact that you’re under 21.

Related: “Binge Drinking: Should Parents Be Concerned?”

Facing underage DUI charges? Contact our office to meet with a Board-Certified DUI defense specialist for free!