This post: Teen DUI Accidents: 7 Things Every Parent Should Know
Written By: Attorney Brian D. Sloan / Contributing Writer
Few things are as horrible as receiving news that your child was involved in a car accident.
What would make it even worse is if the accident was alcohol or drug-related and that your teen was the one impaired behind the wheel.
As a parent, having our child involved in a car accident is one of our greatest fears. And, although most parents do their best to educate and inform their kids about the dangers associated with drinking and driving and being responsible behind the wheel, accidents still happen.
In fact, according to statistics, nearly 8,000 people are killed in traffic accidents every year involving drivers ages 16-20. And, 40 percent of those accidents are a direct result of drinking and driving. Another sobering statistic reveals that 20% of high school students claim they’ve ridden with a driver who had been drinking.
Education and communication are key to preventing teen DUI accidents. But if it does happen, knowing what steps to take next can pave the way for the best possible outcome for your teen.
If your child is involved in a teen DUI accident, here are a few tips that can help you navigate your way through the situation.
Teen DUI Accidents: 7 Things Every Parent Should Know
A Few Facts about Teen DUI Accidents
Because it’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol, your child will likely not only face underage drinking charges but also a separate offense of underage drinking and driving, in addition to DUI (driving under the influence) charges.
The first thing you need to do is get to the scene of the accident as quickly as possible to make sure your child is alright. Regardless of the situation, do your best to remain calm.
It’s fully understandable to feel extremely worried and angry at the same time when you receive news about your child’s drunk driving accident. Still, it won’t help your child’s situation if you lose your composure.
Upon arriving at the scene of the accident, (or the police station), don’t take it out on the arresting officer(s) or your child. Deal with the situation in a mature and professional way, without any drama. You would hate to find yourself in a situation where you lost your cool and ended up being arrested for interfering with a police investigation or disturbing the peace.
Once the dust settles and you’ve determined that your child is safe and you’ve assessed the situation, it’s best to contact a reputable DUI defense attorney. An experienced attorney can offer insight and advice on what your next steps should be.
Inform Your Child of His or Her Rights
When you arrive at the scene, you need to advise your child to invoke their right to remain silent, and politely refuse to make any statements that could potentially incriminate them. If possible, speak with the officer to find out what, if any, charges might be filed against your teenager.
Police on the scene will always ask your child questions regarding the accident or if he or she had been drinking. While being polite with the police is important, everyone has the right to refrain from answering questions that may implicate them.
Chances are your child will be arrested on suspicion of DUI. However, the defense will be easier to mount if the police don’t receive incriminating statements on the scene.
Understand Zero-Tolerance Laws
All states have underage DUI laws, which are often referred to as “zero-tolerance laws.” Compared to regular DUI laws, zero-tolerance laws impose stricter alcohol restrictions on drivers under the age of 21.
Most regular DUI laws, for example, set the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit at 0.08%. Zero-tolerance laws, on the other hand, impose BAC limits of any positive alcohol amount on the underage driver, depending on the state.
If your child is convicted of underage DUI, he or she may face penalties that include fines, license suspension of up to two years, community service, and time in jail or a juvenile facility. The penalties would be harsher if the underage DUI led to an accident that caused injury or death.
Be Aggressive With the Defense
Your child is a minor, which means you will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for him or her when planning a DUI defense. Work closely with your child’s DUI attorney who will provide you with information about your teen’s rights in addition to other legal options that may be available to you.
Your child’s lawyer will also keep an eye out for any possible irregular or illegal actions police may have taken during the arrest and/or investigation, and make them part of the defense that is mounted for your child.
Some of the things you and your lawyer may question in court include the possible inaccuracy of your child’s breathalyzer tests, the way they drew your child’s blood for testing, and any problems with the storage and testing of the blood itself.
Brace for the Worst
You and your child’s DUI attorney may be able to mount a spirited defense, but there is always the possibility of a conviction. Be prepared should the court decide that your child has to face the full penalties of an underage DUI charge.
The fines, for example, will be somewhere between a couple of hundred dollars to potentially a couple of thousand dollars, depending on the circumstances of the case. You, the parent of the minor, will be the one to shoulder the financial obligation.
Be prepared, also, for the possibility that your child may have to spend time in a juvenile facility or even jail. It is also important to understand that if your child is not yet 18, but will be turning 18 within a couple of months, prosecutors often hold off on bringing the charges until the child actually turns 18 to prevent them from entering the juvenile court system and pushing the case into the adult court system.
Prepare For Future Long-Term Impact
The penalties for underage DUI are certainly bad enough, but the consequences of your child’s actions may still impact your child’s life well into their future.
A DUI conviction tarnishes your teen’s driving record, and that could give rise to other problems down the road. Schools and colleges, for example, reserve the right to expel students charged with underage drinking and driving. Your otherwise smart, hardworking child might also find it hard to qualify for university scholarships. Additionally, potential employers tend to shy away from hiring individuals with a DUI on their record.
Dealing with underage DUI is extremely stressful both for teenagers and their parents. These tips should offer some general understanding of the legal system as well as offer some guidance if your child is charged with a DUI. Having an experienced attorney on your side who specializes in DUI cases can help bring about the best possible outcome for your teen.
About the Author
Brian Sloan is a Criminal Defense Lawyer solely focused on DUI defense representation. He is Founding Member of The Arizona DUI Team and has taught DUI defense at statewide seminars through the years. He has also created guides used by lawyers across the state and has an impressive resume of awards and accomplishments. He has been defending DUI cases since 2004 and has defended more than 3,100 DUI cases, with incredible results. A partial list of his accomplishments may be viewed at The Law Offices of Brian D. Sloan.