Underage DUI

Matthew Ruff, Top Underage DUI Attorney

Former District Attorney Office Experience!

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Don't let an underage DWI ruin your loved one's future. Insurance is costly enough when you're under 21, don't let a DUI or alcohol related offense make it even more expensive. One error in Judgment should not define who they are as a person. With over 25 years of experience Matthew has developed effective strategies to deal with offenses involving alcohol or drugs and minors. With Matt's help hundreds of underage people have avoided the stigma and long term consequences these types of offenses can cause. Contact Matthew today for a free case evaluation.

What are the immediate consequences of an underage DUI? First, the officer will immediately confiscate the license of the driver and forward that to the DMV for commencement of suspension proceedings. If nothing is done to stop it, the DMV will initiate a one year suspension of the driving privilege pursuant to the administrative per se laws. However, if you hire an attorney right away we can STOP THE SUSPENSION and get a formal hearing to challenge the action. This process could result in NO LICENSE SUSPENSION if we can get started within 10 days of the incident.

Matthew Has The Highest Success Rate!

Recent Case Results: Matthew was hired by the parents of a minor from Palos Verdes who was stopped and cited for an under 21 DWI in Los Angeles. The officer detected signs consistent with being intoxicated such as odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus which, if performed correctly, can predict BAC levels. Matthew knew the youth was off to college the following year and sought to prevent the incident from staining the young man's future. In Court Matthew challenged the breath machine used to obtain the sample. Matthew argued the test was inadmissible because the machine was not shown to be tested for accuracy in accordance with statutory guidelines, the Judge agreed and threw out the breathalyzer results and DISMISSED the charges.

Matthew obtained a NOT GUILTY verdict after jury trial for a 19 year old client charged with DUI and driving above the legal limit in Los Angeles Superior Court in San Fernando. The case originated in Santa Clarita after the client was arrested upon being observed passed out behind the wheel in Castaic. She had an empty bottle of Vodka in the car and blew a .11 BAC on the breath test. Matthew was successful in convincing the jury his client was not guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and that her BAC was not above the per se limit at the time of driving. Following a three day trial the jury agreed and she was ACQUITTED of all charges.

Top Redondo Beach Underage DUI Attorney Matthew Ruff was retained to defend a client facing her 2nd DUI Charge. The problem was she still had not resolved her first case and had a bench warrant that needed to be handled. Matt got the warrant recalled and set out to get the case dismissed. The blood test was over .20 which posed a bit of a challenge. First, he filed a motion challenging the Constitutionality of the charges which was denied. Not deterred, he then filed a motion challenging the stop and arrest. At the hearing the prosecutor first offered a "wet reckless" but Matt knew he could do better. He charged forward with the motion and ultimately the City Attorney relented and Judge Gilbertson DISMISSED THE CASE!

Are Breath Tests in an Underage DUI Reliable? It depends, if the breath machine used was a portable PAS Device then the answer is almost always NO. The machines used by most law enforcement agencies such as CHP and Los Angeles Police Department for field breath testing are called Preliminary Alcohol Screening Devices or PAS. The problem with these machines is that they have minimal internal safeguards to ensure a scientifically reliable result. For example, they have no slope detector to rule out mouth alcohol contamination so a recent burp or belch could result in a false positive for BAC. Top Underage DUI Lawyer Matthew Ruff knows the science and legal defenses that work to save your license and keep your record clean.

What is the difference between DUI and underage drinking and driving laws? Primarily everyone is considered "under the influence" regardless of age if they do not possess the mental or physical faculties to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person and if this is the case they can be charged with driving under the influence(VC23152) regardless of age. However, persons under 21 have special rules unique to them (1.) They can be charged with an infraction VC23140 if between .05-.08 and are not "impaired". (2). They can be charged with an infraction VC23136 if they are between .01-.05 and are not impaired. These statutes prohibit conduct of anyone under the age of 21. Lastly, the officer may choose to simply write up the case as "administrative" zero tolerance and not issue a citation to appear in Court. In these cases the youth is facing sanction at the DMV only and no punishment by the Court.

How is the accuracy of the breath machines determined? Most underage drinking and driving investigations involve the use of a roadside portable machine called a "preliminary alcohol screener". If the driver is 20 or younger he or she is required to blow into the device if lawfully detained or risk loss of driving privileges. This machine is maintained by the police agency and it is required to be checked for accuracy every 10 days or less. The device must read an accurate result during the check or risk being pulled out of service. The records of these checks should be requested in any case. The manufacturer sets forth guidelines for maintenance that also must be adhered to in order for the results to be admitted as evidence in a prosecution against a minor.

Indeed, most states criminalize being under 21 and drinking while driving. This means that there is zero tolerance for drivers with .01 or more in there bloodstream. However, this does not mean that everyone cited for being a minor with alcohol on their breath is guilty of a crime. In California, If you are under the age of 21 and you have been arrested or issued a citation for Drunk Driving or an alcohol related driving offense then you will face a different set of standards at the DMV and in Court as compared to someone over 21. For starters, instead of the typical "legal Limit" of 0.08 % blood alcohol your "limit" as you might want to refer to it is 0.01%. Basically, the state licensing authority prohibits under 21 drivers to have any alcohol in your system while you are driving. This is sometimes referred to as the "zero tolerance" law. From a legal perspective that makes perfect sense inasmuch as you are not supposed to drink, be served or buy any alcohol until you are age 21 or over. That is not it however, because just like with people over 21, there are two separate processes that you must participate in. The DMV and the Criminal Court.


Matt represented a minor who was stopped for weaving along Interstate 5 near Valencia. The client was asked to submit to a portable breath test at the scene and he complied. The CHP Officer had him blow twice and reported his results as .06 and .07 BAC. His license was confiscated and he was released with a citation to appear in the Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Clarita. Matt requested all reports and maintenance records on the device used. The case was set for hearing and the lawyer cross examined the officer on the stand and showed the breath machine and the results were unreliable and the Judge excluded them and ACQUITTED THE CLIENT of all charges.

Matthew represented a youth in Redondo Beach for VC23140 which is driving with alcohol above .05%. Not long after being cited a DMV hearing was set and he showed that the breath machine was unreliable and the suspension was set aside and the license was restored.

Our law firm was retained to defend a 20 year old stopped along interstate in Los Angeles county for speeding. The young person was contacted by the CHP officer and asked to exit the car once alcohol was detected on his breath. Simple field sobriety tests were administered and according to the officer the client failed. He was asked to submit to a field breath test, called a PAS, and he complied, revealing a result of .06 and .07. He was issued a citation for VC23140 and his license was confiscated. Matthew set the case for trial and at the close of his questioning to the officer he moved to suppress the breath test for noncompliance with state rules, the judge agreed andthe charges were dismissed.

Matthew was retained by the mother of a 20 year old client detained and cited on the 5 Freeway near Newport Beach. The CHP administered a breath test to the minor along the roadside after smelling alcohol on his breath. The results were over .05 but under .08 so he was given a ticket and ordered to appear in Harbor Court in Orange County California on a charge of VC 23140. Unfortunately the client did not contact Matthew within the first 10 days so a DMV Hearing could not be obtained. However, Matthew set out to get the case resolved so that the client could get his license back and be acquitted of the criminal charges in Court. Matthew set the case for trial and when that date came he argued the breath test should be suppressed (not used) because there was no evidence presented to show it was reliable and in good working order on the day of the incident. This type of evidence is called an "evidentiary foundation" and must be established if the appropriate objections are made. The Judge agreed with Matthew and threw out the test results and found his client NOT GUILTY. Matthew then took that decision and appealed to the DMV to set aside the previously imposed 1 year suspension. The DMV agreed with Matthew and restored the client's license.

Matthew Ruff can also be reached Toll Free at 1-877-213-4453

If the officer arrested you for Vehicle Code 23152 the same law that applies to persons over 21 will apply to you, that is the .08% standard. However there are specific criminal laws that apply to persons under 21. If you are under age 18 at the time of the arrest or citation you will end up in the Juvenile Court in the County where you were stopped. Unfortunately, juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial, a judge will hear the evidence and decide your guilt or innocence. Persons over 18 but under 21 will appear in the same Court as individuals older than twenty one (Adult Court). If you are charged with 23152 (the regular DUI statute) then you will be allowed a jury trial because you are looking at jail time. If charged with 23140, this violation is an infraction and you will not be able to request a jury trial because no jail time is possible under 23140.

Overview of California Criminal Law on Under 21 DUI

There are essentially 3 CA Vehicle Code sections that govern the offense of under-age drinking and driving within the state. First, is the basic zero tolerance statute VC 23136 which prohibits anyone 20 or younger to drive with .01 or more in a motor vehicle. Second, is VC 23140 which makes it an infraction to drive with a .05 or more BAC if under twenty one years of age. Lastly, is VC23152 which makes it a misdemeanor to drive while impaired or have a .08 or more blood alcohol level at any age, including minors. The basic difference between a misdemeanor crime and an infraction is that the former carries jail time, an infraction cannot result in any imposition of a jail sentence. Because no jail can be given on an infraction, there is no right to a jury trial.

Let's talk more about VC 23140. The essence of the offense is that no one under 21 is permitted to drive with a a blood alcohol level of .05% or higher. This offense usually only results in a ticket being issued and the person is released without being "arrested" in the traditional sense or booked into jail. The unique thing about VC23140 is that the law permits the police officer to administer a portable breath testing device, PAS or "Preliminary Alcohol Screening" machine to ascertain the blood alcohol content of the driver. This differs greatly for those over 21 who have the right to refuse the PAS and must be given a different type of breath test called an "evidentiary test" or a blood test. If you are under 21 you have no such right. If you are underage and are detained for suspicion of driving after having consumed an alcoholic beverage and subsequently refuse to take a PAS test, your license will automatically be suspended for one year with no ability to apply for a hardship restricted license for any reason.

The vehicle Code 23140 offense carries a maximum punishment of a substantial fine, the consequence of having to complete a DUI school and a license suspension as well as 2 points on your driving record for 10 years.

Another charge associated with underage drinking and driving is that of Vehicle Code 23136. This offense is essentially an administrative violation that prohibits driving with a .01 or higher. The violation is considered an infraction as well, just like the 23140 charge with the major difference that if you are adjudicated guilty of this charge it carries no points on your DMV and does not require completion of a DUI school. It will however result in a one year potential license suspension from the DMV and carries the same insurance consequences as the alternative charge of 23140.

With regard to the DMV, after the citation or arrest, the driver will be issued a pink document called a notice of suspension, temporary license. A DMV hearing must be requested with 10 days or there will be no way to avoid a mandatory license suspension. DUI Attorney Matthew Ruff takes care of all the paperwork to save the drivers license thru the administrative process.

Enforcement of these under 21 alcohol related driving offenses are usually much more prominent in areas where young people congregate such as college towns and popular hangouts. For example, in San Luis Obispo, the police have a special task force for underage drinking violators, as does many areas of Los Angeles, Redondo Beach and Torrance.

The following is a recent case example of a DUI matter that Matthew handled for a client in the South Bay: The young man was stopped at a DWI checkpoint and the police detected an odor of alcohol on his breath. The youngster was asked to perform various field sobriety tests and subsequently submitted to a hand held PAS test of his breath which revealed a .07/.08 blood alcohol level. A second test was given using a California Evidentiary test and it showed a BAC well above the legal limit for a person under 21. The parents, who lived in Palos Verdes, contacted Matthew and hired him to defend the minor. The attorney contacted the DMV and stopped the suspension of the license that follows an arrest for underage drunk driving. Next, the lawyer set the case for a Court trial in the Superior Court. At the Court proceeding Mr. Ruff cross-examined the arresting officer and established that the chemical testing procedures failed to meet the foundational legal requirements under CA law. Consequently, the Judge threw out the case and found the client NOT GUILTY of the under 21 DUI. Matthew then sought a set aside of the DMV action and made sure that the young person's record was cleared of any violation. The driver's license was returned by the Sacramento DMV shortly thereafter in early 2013.

Underage DUI Attorney Matthew Ruff has defended hundreds of under 21 alcohol related charges over the course of his career with excellent results. These charges can be successfully defended in Court and at the DMV. In fact Matthew has a success rate of well over 80 percent overall for under 21 alcohol related charges. Examples of legitimate defenses include failure of the officer to follow state regulations in the administration of the breath test, illegal stop, detention and arrest. Use of faulty equipment or improperly maintained breath devices, just to name a few. In one recent case, Matthew defended a college student on a VC23140 ticket in Los Angeles County. The police officer cited her after her car collided with another in a university parking lot and her breath test was a .07%. The lawyer fought the case and got the charges thrown out both in Court and at the DMV due to improprieties in the breath testing procedures.

Top 3 Ways To Beat An Underage DUI Charge in California?

1. Challenge the Initial Stop. The law requires the prosecution to prove the initial contact and detention was justified under the Constitution. This means that, if challenged, the DA must produce evidence that the officer had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or observed some violation of the Vehicle Code prior to activating his overhead lights and pulling the car over. Matthew is very successful in challenging the basis for the stop and has won many cases on this issue where his client was stopped unlawfully.

2. Show the Officer was Improperly Trained. In order to administer field sobriety tests and the Preliminary Alcohol Screening device the officer must be trained and certified to conduct these tests. Matthew knows these tests better that the police because he has been trained by NHTSA himself and he knows how to attack the results when the tests are administered incorrectly. For example the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test that the officer often administers roadside is fraught with potential errors and an improperly conducted test can lead to a false decision to arrest or decision that the person is impaired by alcohol.

3. The Breath Test was Faulty. The breath machines used to obtain samples for BAC in an underage DWI have to be maintained pursuant to scientific and State standards. The rules governing the tests can be found in Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations and from the manufacturers themselves. Matthew knows these rules and standards very well and can use them to show the test in your case was unreliable.

If you have a son or daughter facing an underage DUI in the South Bay, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, Palos Verdes, Santa Monica, Redondo Beach or anywhere in Los Angeles County, Orange County and Southern California and are concerned about the consequences it will have on insurance, the drivers license or criminal record and would like a FREE consultation, call Matthew Ruff toll free at 1-877-213-4453.


Contact Matthew J. Ruff Attorney at Law Today!

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