When Underage Drinking Hits Home: What To Do If Your Child Is Arrested For DUI

Nothing pains a parent more than seeing their child engage in self-destructive behavior, especially when it could be deadly. Underage drinking can take an enormous toll on a family, but when it involves driving, your problems are exponentially more serious. If your child's been arrested for driving under the influence, you face the daunting task of getting them through the legal proceedings which follow. Here are six things you should do to succeed:

1. Know That Special DUI Laws Apply To Minors

Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among young adults and in an effort to counter these tragic statistics, zero tolerance laws were put in place, making it a crime for any minor operating a vehicle to have any alcohol in their system at all. That means that even if your child claims they didn't consume a sufficient amount of alcohol to become "drunk", the law will find them in violation of a criminal offense. There are no excuses and no exceptions for minors driving under the influence.

2. Understand The Consequences Your Child May Be Facing

Since 40% of deadly auto accidents involve alcohol and people between the ages of 16 and 24, your minor child may very well have the "book" thrown at them, in order for the court to feel it has taught an appropriate lesson. A DUI charge can have a major impact on your child and your family; thus, it's important that you all be aware of the possible consequences, including, but not limited, to the following:

  • A suspended license from a short period of time to more than a year depending on the circumstances.
  • Mandatory drunk driving classes.
  • Court-imposed fines.
  • Probation.
  • Community service.
  • Actual jail time or a sentence in a juvenile detention facility.

3. Contact A DUI Attorney Right Away

Even if you're certain your child isn't technically guilty or that there's some other legitimate explanation for their perceived drunk driving, you need to hire a DUI lawyer immediately. Try and remain calm (easier said than done) and gather as much evidence in defense of your child as possible, such as prescriptions or the testimony of witnesses. Anything a lawyer might use to further their investigation and have the charges reduced or dropped entirely should be handed over as soon as possible. Take notes when you're with the lawyer, so you can remember all their instructions and follow them exactly. To most non-legal people, cases appear cut-and-dry; however, in reality, law is a complicated, even cryptic set of circumstances which can be very difficult to grasp. A good DUI attorney has special insight and experience that makes adhering to their advice vital to the success of your case.

4. Convince Your Child To Fully Cooperate With The Lawyer

If your teenager is rebellious or even belligerent toward adults (which ultimately isn't that unusual for kids that age), do whatever is necessary to get them to cooperate with the legal representatives you hire. Your child might be asked to accept a plea deal, for example, and be prepared to meet the terms of such an agreement. If the case goes to trial, your child will need to be presentable and credible before the court and to speak respectfully to all parties. If this seems like a challenge to you now, rehearse the proceedings as many times as needed until you're satisfied your child can portray themselves in a very positive light in the proceedings. Emphasize the importance of following the lawyer's advice and don't refrain from honestly informing your child of how a DUI can negatively impact their life for a long time to come.

5. Strictly Enforce The Court's Decision

Whatever the court's decision, you'll either be left with the option to appeal or have to abide by the order. If, for example, your child will be required to attend DUI classes, they can't be missed. If their license was suspended, don't allow them to drive under any circumstances. Not only will violating a court order get your child, and possibly you, in further trouble, but you don't want to teach your child to have no regard for the rules set by the court, as that could set a precedent for future criminal behavior. Work together as a family and with your lawyer to get through the probation, classes or other court-ordered stipulations without further incident, then you can all try to move on.

6. Watch Your Child Closely

Kids will be kids and teenagers can face very overwhelming challenges as they approach adulthood, but the more you can do to convince them to always avoid drinking and driving, the safer and smarter they'll be for life. Make sure you set a good example, by not ever getting behind the wheel yourself if you've been drinking and by not hosting social events at your home where guests consume alcohol, then drive themselves home. It's a dangerous world and to better equip your child to handle it, lay down the rules that will keep them safe, enforce those rules and live by them yourself.

As dark and daunting as things may seem now, if you and your child abide by the advice of a good DUI lawyer, follow through on the court's decisions and commit to making the positive changes needed, brighter days will follow. It will be a hard lesson learned, but hopefully, one without the tragedies that so often befall families of young drivers.