Driving under the influence is a major criminal offense for anyone who has to endure the consequences of this action. Unfortunately, young drivers are not always aware of the severity that this illegal activity receives from law enforcement officials. Even the circumstances surrounding an impaired driving conviction, involving minimal or no serious damage to others, can create big problems for young, inexperienced drivers. It also constitutes a serious test in parenting. Despite the legal and emotional challenges a DUI can present for your family, you can help your teen recover from it and move forward in a more positive direction.
Depending on the size and nature of your community, news of a DUI conviction for an underage driver may quickly become common knowledge. This can be a difficult stigma for a teenager to endure, causing them years of embarrassment. This may also be true for the parents of the convicted teen. On a positive note, the penalties and consequences of the charge are often enough to effectively teach your teen this very hard lesson during his or her high school years. Hopefully, as a result of this experience, your teen will become a safer, more responsible adult where drinking and driving is concerned.
All 50 states have enhanced their Driving While Impaired (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) laws in the past generation, and the stringent punishments have not excluded young drivers. As a matter of fact, penalties for underage DUI offenders have increased. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest, as well as the age of the people involved, your teen could also face additional charges such as illegal possession by a minor (if alcohol is present in the vehicle), and contributing to the endangerment of others, if the offense includes additional minors, and the driver is over 18 years old.
If your child happens to be 18 years old at the time of the arrest, the situation can become even more serious. In this case, the fines for DUI are the same as for an adult, and the underage drinker is often placed on probation for at least one year. Their recovery requirements may include alcoholic drivers’ education courses, an alcoholic abuse program, and even progress evaluation and monthly visits with a counselor or therapist. Fortunately, these programs are in place to help elicit more positive behavior from your teen, in addition to getting her the help she needs if she does, in fact, have a drinking or substance abuse problem.
According to our Montgomery County DUI lawyer, establishing a criminal record early in life can create major problems later on when your teenager becomes an adult. Considering how your teen’s record will affect him beyond his high school years is critical for the offending driver and serious consideration for retaining an experienced criminal attorney, especially one that is capable of handling juvenile DUI cases.
If the offense occurred while the driver was under 18 years of age, then an attorney will be needed to ensure that the punishment is consistent with the law. This includes suppression of the criminal record. Criminal histories are not automatically expunged from the record of a minor in all states. Sealing a minor’s records before the age of 18 helps the offender with rehabilitation. For those over the age of 18, the law is not so kind, and there are stringent rules to qualify for an expunged record if your son or daughter has been charged as an adult.
Helping your high schooler recover from a DUI arrest can be even more difficult than for an older individual. There are many factors involved in addition to the standard financial damages, including higher car insurance rates, and difficulties that arise from having a suspended driver’s license. It is a critical time in your child’s life that can become the difference between fostering a history of criminal behavior or setting him or her on a better path. Retaining an attorney allows the parent to focus on the recovery efforts of the family, and ensures that court proceedings are in the hands of professional and experienced legal counsel.
Karla M. Somers is a writer and an experienced family mediator who is passionate about interpersonal relationships. She is a contributing author for the Montgomery County DUI lawyer team of Kellis Law Firm. This trusted Pennsylvania law firm helps families recover from DUI charges and is also experienced in juvenile crimes and parental rights.