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California DUI and the "Critical Need Exception" for Juvenile Drivers

"Juvenile drivers" are subject to special offenses and a special exception for California DUI...

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California has a "zero tolerance" policy toward people below the age of 21 who drink and drive ("juvenile drivers"). Basically, this means two things. First, if a juvenile driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the legal limit of .08%, he or she can face the same charges applied to drivers over age 21. Second, juvenile drivers can face unique charges that penalize them for driving with any detectable BAC... even when it's below .08%.

The alcohol-related charges a juvenile driver may face are varied... but they all threaten an identical result: suspension or delay of his or her driver's license by the California DMV, usually for a year.

A juvenile driver can contest a DUI license suspension in a DMV hearing the same way a driver over age 21 can. Therefore, all juvenile drivers should reserve their right to this hearing within 10 days of a DUI arrest. However, juvenile drivers may also be able to avoid the full effect of a license suspension (or delay it) in a way overage drivers cannot. This brings up the relationship between California DUI and the "critical need exception" for juvenile drivers.

The "critical need exception" applies where a juvenile DUI driver can demonstrate suspending or delaying her license would result in one of the following three situations:

  1. inadequate transportation to attend school or school-authorized activities;
  2. inadequate transportation to assist a family member in obtaining medical treatment for illness; or
  3. inadequate transportation to fulfill employment essential for the support of the family.

Where one of the three situations above can be proven to exist, the DMV may issue a "junior permit" that allows a juvenile to drive in accordance with the demonstrated "critical need," despite his or her DUI offense.

The California DUI and the "critical need exception" for juvenile drivers presents high standards and requirements that will be carefully scrutinized by the DMV. In addition, it is only available following first-time DUI offenses. Other limitations may also apply. If you or someone you know may benefit from the "critical need exception," we strongly urge you to consult with an experienced attorney.

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DUI cases are rarely hopeless. DUI convictions are almost never inevitable. Clients retain our California DUI defense attorneys for one reason: they want to fight the case. And win.

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The police arrested you for DUI. You gave a blood or a breath sample. The DUI officer confiscated you drivers license. The police released you with a notice to appear in court in a few weeks. Where do you go from here? Our lawyers are here to guide you step by step.