When it comes to “worst parenting nightmares”, getting the call that your child has been arrested for a DUI is right at the top of the list. If you’re in this situation, you are probably experiencing a range of emotions, from disappointment and frustration to fear and anxiety. But remember, your child is probably going through the same feelings and needs your support and guidance during this time.
By understanding the legal process, the potential consequences, and the importance of open communication, you can play an important role in guiding your child through this stressful experience.
So Your Child Was Charged With DUI… Now What?
A single mistake can have lifelong consequences, including college rejections, employment challenges, and financial hardships. As a parent, it's important to understand the legal consequences of a DUI charge for minors and take appropriate steps to help your child navigate this difficult situation.
Seek Professional Legal Guidance And Be Prepared
Working with an attorney who has experience representing minors can increase the chances of getting the charges reduced or dropped altogether. Your lawyer will walk you through every step of the process, but it’s important to take the initiative and be prepared to support your child. Here are some steps you can take:
- Find out the specific laws in your state regarding DUI charges against minors.
- Attend all court hearings with your child and communicate effectively with the court and other legal professionals involved.
- Pay attention to any administrative proceedings, such as driver's license revocations or DMV hearings, and take action within the allotted time frame to contest any penalties.
- Keep track of important appointments, paperwork, and communication with legal counsel.
- Encourage your child to attend therapy or counseling to help manage the emotional impact of the charge and aid in the recovery process.
Attend Therapy Or Counseling Sessions
Seeking professional help, such as meeting with a therapist or attending AA meetings, can show the court that your child is taking responsibility for their actions and is trying to make positive changes.
Therapy or counseling sessions can help them cope with complex emotions and the upcoming court case. However, the type of treatment your child attends will depend on their specific needs and circumstances following the DUI charge.
In some cases, therapists may ask their clients to sign a release of confidential information about their therapy sessions after a DUI arraignment to help develop defense strategies.
DUI Charges On A Minor
Driving under the influence is a serious offense; the consequences can be even more severe when it involves a minor. Minors charged with DUI face strict penalties depending on the state and the circumstances surrounding the arrest.
In general, though, minors are held to a higher standard than adults regarding DUI laws, as many states have "zero tolerance" policies for underage drinking and driving.
Zero Tolerance Laws
Zero tolerance laws are designed to discourage underage drinking and driving by making it a crime for drivers under 21 to operate a vehicle if they have even a trace of alcohol in their system.
For adults, the legal blood alcohol content limit is typically 0.08% in most jurisdictions. However, the limit is much lower for underage drivers, often ranging from 0.00% to 0.02%, depending on the state. In Florida, for example, the legal BAC limit for drivers under 21 is 0.02% or higher.
These strict laws apply in every state and reflect the severity of the consequences of drunk driving among minors.
Consequences Of A DUI Charge On A Minor
Depending on the severity of the charge and whether it’s a first or repeat offense, a driver's license may be suspended or revoked. For example, if a minor is found to have a 0.02% or greater BAC, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will revoke the driver's license. The suspension period is six months for the first offense and one year for all subsequent offenses.
Minors may also face various consequences, including fines, court costs, and other fees related to the violation. In some cases, the court may order community service, requiring the violator to complete a certain number of volunteer hours. The underage driver may also be required to attend alcohol classes, addiction counseling, or a treatment program to address the underlying issues that led to the DUI offense.
Probation may also be imposed, including regular visits with a probation officer, mandatory drug or alcohol testing, and compliance with certain court-ordered conditions. A criminal record can have a long-term impact on a minor's future prospects, such as finding a job or looking to buy a house. In certain jurisdictions, underage DUI offenders may even face jail time, especially if the offense involved an accident, injury, or death.
How A DUI Attorney Can Help
A DUI attorney who specializes in cases involving minors has a deep understanding of the specific laws and regulations that apply to underage drivers. They can use this knowledge to develop a strong defense strategy tailored to the case's unique circumstances.
They can also closely examine the evidence presented by the prosecution, such as breathalyzer test results, field sobriety tests, and officer testimony. They’ll work to identify any inconsistencies or procedural errors that could weaken the charges against the minor, potentially reducing charges or even dismissing the case.
In some cases, an attorney may negotiate a plea bargain on behalf of the minor, which results in a lesser charge or sentence. This can be especially beneficial for first-time offenders who may be eligible for diversion programs or other alternatives to traditional sentencing.
A DUI conviction can have lasting effects on a minor's life, including difficulty obtaining scholarships, joining the military, or obtaining certain professional licenses. An attorney can work to minimize these consequences by seeking expungement of the conviction or other post-conviction relief options.
Resources For Parents And Families Of DUI-Charged Minors
Various resources and programs can assist parents and families in supporting their child through the court process. Remember, communication, education, and professional counseling will help your child learn from this experience and start on the path to a better future.
Support Groups And Counseling Services
Support groups and counseling services can serve as invaluable resources for parents and families struggling with the stress and challenges associated with DUI charges. These programs provide emotional support, education, and assistance in maneuvering through the legal system, making them an important tool in coping with this challenging time.
Support groups, in particular, create an environment where people with similar experiences can come together to share stories, share effective coping strategies, and foster a sense of community. This sense of solidarity helps minors and families feel less isolated in their struggle and offers them practical advice and insight from people who have successfully navigated similar situations.
On the other hand, counseling services can provide professional support tailored to the individual needs of each family member to help them process their feelings and develop healthy coping mechanisms. For the minor facing DUI charges, counseling can also address underlying issues related to substance abuse or decision-making, ultimately contributing to personal growth and positive change.
Educational Programs And Prevention Initiatives
Education programs and prevention initiatives can help reduce charges against DUI charges and related accidents. Supporting and promoting these educational programs can help foster a culture of responsible decision-making among young drivers, contributing to a safer and more aware driving environment for everyone on the road.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) offer programs such as "Power of Parents" and "Power of You(th)" that give parents the tools they need to effectively discuss wise decisions with their children about drinking and driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Teen Driving website provides information on safe driving practices for teens. Educating young drivers early on about the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence can significantly reduce the number of DUI crashes.
The Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students program provides young people with the tools to curb alcohol abuse and its negative consequences. These programs focus on promoting responsible drinking habits, identifying high-risk behaviors, and implementing strategies to reduce the likelihood of alcohol-related problems, including drinking and driving.
Fight Your Child’s DUI With An Experienced Attorney
If your child has been charged with a DUI, this mistake doesn’t have to define their future. While a DUI charge is always serious, an experienced attorney can help you navigate the process and achieve the most favorable outcome possible.