Some people are under the mistaken impression that, just because you’re a minor, you can get away with certain criminal activities or receive lesser punishment for them. While that might be true in some cases, that is not necessarily the case when your underage child is charged with a DUI.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence is a charge that all states take seriously. At present, all states impose strict penalties on people convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In most states, the point at which you’re legally intoxicated is when your blood alcohol content level is 0.08%. In some states, a BAC as low as 0.05% is the legally intoxicated limit. However, plenty of studies have shown that impairment can begin before your BAC reaches these limits, and you can be arrested if you’re exhibiting signs of intoxication even if you submit to a breathalyzer test and blow below the legal limit.
If you happen to be a minor or under the legal drinking age of 21, you’ll be arrested if you have any trace of alcohol in your system since it’s against the law for people under the age of 21 to buy or consume alcohol. This means that you’ll instantly be charged with driving under the influence if you’re found to have any alcohol in your system while driving.
Your child might not have really been drunk. Maybe he had one drink at a party and was exhibiting no signs of drunk driving. Still, if he happens to be stopped by a police officer for any reason and the officer smells alcohol on his breath, he could be arrested for a DUI. It might not seem fair if you think your child wasn’t drunk and was trying to be responsible, but that is the law.
There are many dramatic consequences for underage DUIs. In addition to having to spend a night or longer in jail, minors could have their driver’s licenses suspended anywhere from a period of 30 days all the way up until they turn 21. Usually, first-time minor DUI offenders don’t have to suffer a full suspension until they’re 21. But if a minor gets multiple DUIs, he could expect to have to undergo a full suspension until he’s 21 years of age.
You can also expect to have to take a DUI education class before you’ll be able to get your license back. The classes usually cost a couple hundred dollars, and you’ll have to have proof of attendance to turn into your state’s DMV and sometimes the court, too.
You might also have to go on a period of probation, during which time you’ll have to report to a probation officer who can urine test you at any time to make sure that you’re following the conditions of your probation and not consuming any alcohol. You’ll also be ordered to stay away from places that primarily sell alcohol like liquor stores and bars.
There could be hefty fines and fees associated with an underage DUI conviction. There will be court costs to pay, the fines and fees for breaking the law, license reinstatement fees, and so on. Sometimes underage DUI offenders can swap out certain fines and fees or jail time with community service to work off what they owe and to help keep them from getting into additional trouble. Courts oftentimes like to sentence underage offenders to community service hours in hopes that the work will keep them busy and focused so that they won’t have time to get into trouble. The courts also hope that the offenders will learn a valuable work ethic that they can apply to other areas of their lives.
To top it all off, their vehicle will likely be impounded so you’ll have to pay to get it out of the impound lot. If you can’t make the payment, your vehicle could be seized or forfeited to the court.
Underage DUI offenders could even be sentenced to juvenile detention in more extreme cases or in cases where the underage offender keeps repeating the offense. Juvenile detention follows students into adulthood where it could affect other areas of their lives.
Listed above are all the legal consequences of underage DUI convictions, but there are plenty of other ramifications as well. First of all, you can expect your child’s insurance to go up. Insurance companies usually charge higher premiums for teen drivers anyway, but that rate only raises when the teen has proven himself or herself to be a high-risk driver by driving under the influence.
An underage DUI conviction could also affect your child’s college standing. Some colleges will penalize students who get into trouble with drugs or alcohol. If your child is still in high school, then he could have to deal with the social backlash of being branded a troublemaker. Some other students might refuse to date or hang out with him, and it could make it more difficult for him to obtain jobs since he’ll now have a criminal record.
A DUI Lawyer Can help
The first thing you should do when your son is involved in a DUI case is to call a lawyer who deals with underage DUI cases. Instruct your son not to speak to law enforcement or anyone else about the case until he’s spoken with a lawyer.
A lawyer will examine the facts and evidence surrounding your son’s case to determine the best way to proceed with a defense. Usually, the first thing that the lawyer will do is to examine whether or not the stop or encounter with a police officer was legal. For instance, if the police officer didn’t have a valid reason to initiate a stop, then all the evidence gathered after the fact will be ruled inadmissible in court, which could result in your son’s entire charges being dropped.
However, if a lawyer examines your case and finds that the stop was indeed valid, then he or she will focus on the positive aspects of your son’s character. The lawyer will then use the highlights of your son’s character as well as his or her negotiation skills and relationships with the prosecution to try to secure the least possible penalties for your child. Regardless of whether or not your lawyer is able to get the charges dropped, reduced, or has to undergo negotiations for the least possible penalties, it’s essential that you have a lawyer to represent you. Without a lawyer, your child could be facing the maximum penalties allowed by the law and you never want to walk into the courtroom and have the entire book thrown at you, so to speak. Contact a lawyer who specializes in DUI law today.