Penal Code 193.8(a) PC - Relinquishing a Motor Vehicle to a Minor

California Penal Code 193.8(a) PC is the California statute on an adult giving possession of a vehicle to a minor. Under this statute, it is a crime for an adult, that is the owner or in possession of a motor vehicle, to give the vehicle to a minor when:

Examples of illegal acts under PC 193.8(a) include:

  • a woman gives her car keys to her son's friend (aged 17) and tells him to drive himself home, although she knows he has had three beers in an hour.
  • a man knows that his nephew (aged 16) has been recently convicted of DUI, but he still loans him his auto for the weekend.
  • a woman gives her niece (aged 16) her car keys and asks her to go to the grocery store, although she knows the niece was convicted of reckless driving a year ago.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of relinquishing a motor vehicle to a minor. These include showing that an accused:

  • acted out of necessity;
  • had no knowledge of intoxication; and/or,
  • gave his keys to a minor that was a parking attendant.

Penalties

A violation of Penal Code 193.8(a) is charged as a misdemeanor (as opposed to a California felony or an infraction). The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

california teen car keys
California Penal Code 193.8(a) PC is the California statute on an adult giving possession of a vehicle to a minor.

1. What is the legal definition of relinquishing a vehicle to a minor?

Under California Penal Code 193.8(a) PC, it is a crime for an adult, that is the owner of a vehicle or in possession of a vehicle, to give that vehicle to a minor when:

  • the minor does not have a lawful right to possess the car, and either
  • the adult knows, or reasonably should know, that the minor is intoxicated, or
  • a petition was previously sustained against the minor, or the minor was previously convicted of “certain crimes.”1

Under PC 193.8(a), these “certain crimes” include:

2. What are the legal defenses to accusations under Penal Code 193.8(a)?

A person accused under PC 193.8(a) can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses to PC 193.8(a) accusations are:

  1. necessity;
  2. no knowledge of intoxication; and/or,
  3. parking attendant.

2.1. Necessity

Under a necessity defense, a defendant tries to avoid guilt by showing that he had a sufficiently good reason to commit the crime. People sometimes refer to this defense as “guilty with an explanation.” In the context of relinquishing a motor vehicle to a minor, an accused could attempt to show that he committed the crime since he had no other choice (e.g., because of an emergency).

2.2. No knowledge of intoxication

Recall that an adult violates Penal Code 193.8(a) if he relinquishes a vehicle to a minor and knows, or reasonably should know, that the minor is intoxicated. It is a solid legal defense, therefore, for a defendant to show that he did not have this knowledge. For example, it might have been the case that a minor was drunk but showed no signs of it.

2.3. Parking attendant

California Penal Code 193.8(b) states that the section does not apply to motor vehicle leases and parking arrangements provided by hotels, motels and food facilities for customers. This means that an adult cannot violate PC 193.8 if he provides his car keys to a minor that is a parking attendant at a hotel, motel, or restaurant – even if the minor is intoxicated. This is true, though, only if the adult gives the minor the keys while the minor is working in his capacity as an attendant.

man behind bars prison
A violation of Penal Code 193.8(a) is charged as a misdemeanor and can result in a fine and/or imprisonment

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

A violation of Penal Code 193.8(a) is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.2

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to misdemeanor probation. This is also called “summary” or “informal” probation.

Also note that if an adult is convicted under PC 193.8(a), he is not subject to

  • a driver's license suspension or revocation, or
  • attendance at a licensed alcohol or drug education and counseling program for persons who drive under the influence.3

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to relinquishing a motor vehicle to a minor. These are:

  1. contributing to the delinquency of a minor – PC 272;
  2. negligent entrustment; and,
  3. selling or furnishing alcohol to a minor – BPC 25658.

4.1. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor – PC 272

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a crime per California Penal Code 272.

The offense occurs when someone acts, or fails to act, and as a result a minor becomes:

  • a dependent of the juvenile court system;
  • a juvenile delinquent; or
  • a habitual truant.4

A violation of Penal Code 272 is a misdemeanor.5

The potential penalties include

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $2,500.6

4.2. Negligent entrustment

California's negligent entrustment law imposes liability on car, truck and motorcycle owners who allow an incompetent, reckless, or inexperienced driver to drive their vehicle.

The law allows injured parties to file a civil lawsuit against persons that cause harm via the negligent entrustment of a vehicle.

Liability for negligent entrustment is determined by applying general principles of California's law on negligence.7

An injured party bringing a lawsuit for negligent entrustment can try to obtain compensatory damages.

4.3. Selling or furnishing alcohol to a minor – BPC 25658

Business and Professions Code 25658 makes it a misdemeanor in California to sell or furnish alcohol to a minor.

Under BPC 25658, it is a crime to:

  1. furnish (that is, sell, provide or give), or causing to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to a person under the age of 21; or,
  2. being a person under 21 and either

a) purchasing an alcoholic beverage, or

b) consuming an alcoholic beverage in a place where alcohol is sold; or,

  1. being an on-sale licensee and permitting a person who is under 21 to consume an alcoholic beverage on the premises, even if the licensee doesn't have actual knowledge that the individual is under 21 years of age.8

A violation of BPC 25658 is charged as a misdemeanor. The penalties for furnishing alcohol to a minor vary depending on the exact circumstances of a case. Penalties, though, may include substantial fines and imprisonment in the county jail.

Were you accused of relinquishing a motor vehicle to a minor in California? Call us for help…

california motor vehicle traffic attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under California Penal Code 193.8, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAWFIRM.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 193.8(a) PC. This code section states: “An adult, who is the registered owner of a motor vehicle or in possession of a motor vehicle, shall not relinquish possession of the vehicle to a minor for the purpose of driving if the following conditions exist:

    (1) The adult owner or person in possession of the vehicle knew or reasonably should have known that the minor was intoxicated at the time possession was relinquished.

    (2) A petition was sustained or the minor was convicted of a violation of Section 23103 as specified in Section 23103.5, 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code or a violation of Section 191.5 or subdivision (a) of Section 192.5.

    (3) The minor does not otherwise have a lawful right to possession of the vehicle.”

  2. California Penal Code 193.8(c) PC.

  3. California Penal Code 193.8(c) PC.

  4. California Penal Code 272(a) PC.

  5. See same.

  6. See same.

  7. Allen v. Toledo (1980) 109 Cal.App.3d 415; Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. v. Abdullah (1979) 94 Cal.App.3d 81.

  8. California Business and Professions Code 25658 BP.

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