Did you receive a phone call saying that the police took your teen into custody for drunk driving? The mix of emotions when you got that call probably ranged from anger because your teen failed to heed your warnings about the dangers of drunk driving and relief that he or she survived the experience - hopefully without suffering any injuries or hurting anyone else.
If an accident occurs, everyone focuses first on the safety and health of those involved. However, after police and medical personnel (both at the scene and at the hospital) address any injuries and the chaos dies down, the issue of whether your teen drove under the influence will surface.
Teens drive under the influence more than you think
Underage drinking and driving happens more frequently across the United States than anyone likes to think. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a frightening 20 percent of all fatal crashes involving teenagers also involve alcohol. Considering the fact that approximately 2.4 million teenagers drive drunk each month, the number of alcohol-related fatalities involving teens should scare everyone. It happens so often that researchers obtained enough data to conclude that the risk of death in an accident increases 32 times for teenage drivers with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more versus those who remain sober.
States, including Florida, enacted "zero tolerance laws" to combat the rising number of teens dying in alcohol-related crashes. Unlike adults over the age of 21 who the law does not consider legally intoxicated until the BAC reaches .08, no one under 21 may legally drive with any alcohol in his or her system. If a breath test administered during a traffic stop shows any detectable amount of alcohol, no matter how slight, your teen could face charges of DUI.
Your teen faces harsh penalties for DUI in the short-term
Like anyone over the age of 21 who faces DUI charges, your teen faces a combination of the following penalties depending on the circumstances surrounding his or her arrest:
- Driver's license suspension
- Community service
- Alcohol abuse treatment or education
- Jail time
In addition, you (or your teen) could end up paying any costs associated with an accident, higher insurance rates and legal fees. A DUI conviction could follow your teen for years, which could jeopardize your teen's opportunities in the future.
A DUI conviction also comes with long-term issues
Many teens fail to consider the impact that a DUI conviction can have on their futures. A DUI on your teen's record could affect the following:
- College admission
- College scholarships
- Employment opportunities
What often comes down to a momentary lapse of judgment could change the course of your teen's life forever. Fortunately, it might be possible to get your teen's life back on track.
What can parents do to limit the impact of a teen's mistake?
Limiting the impact of a DUI on your teen's future often requires the assistance of an attorney. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding your teen's arrest could reveal weaknesses in the prosecution's case. Any mistakes made by police or any violation of your teen's rights could result in a reduction or dismissal of the charges. In addition, options exist for first-time offenders that ultimately keep the arrest off your teen's record. Successfully completing any court-ordered programs could provide your teen with the opportunity to move past the incident without jeopardizing his or her future.