The consequences for a teen convicted of driving under the influence can be dire. Teens often face greater legal consequences for a first DUI, as a result of zero-tolerance laws passed in an effort to curb teen drinking and driving. Teenagers may be arrested for DUI even if their blood alcohol content is lower than the legal limit for an adult. In some cases, they may be charged with both an underage DUI and an adult DUI as well as other related charges. Teens who are arrested for a DUI have legal options, but it's up to parents to make sure that a teen's legal rights are protected. If your child is charged with a DUI after an accident, these are the first steps you should take.
Step 1: Make Sure Your Teen Asserts Their Right to Remain Silent
While minors are often subject to different standards than adults, such as being considered under the influence even with a lower blood alcohol content than it would take for an adult to be charged with a DUI, minors do still have the same Miranda rights as adults. That means that if your teen is arrested or detained, they do not have to answer questions from the police. And they shouldn't.
While an adult might call an attorney first thing after being arrested for a DUI, chances are that your teen's first call will be to you, their parent. Let your teen know that their job at the moment is to remain silent. They can tell the police that they are asserting their right to remain silent. They should not say anything else.
Many parents believe that their child can't be questioned by the police if their parents are not present, but this isn't always the case. In Arizona, for example, the police are not required to get your consent or make sure that you're present before questioning your minor child. That means that it's important to tell your child that if they are ever arrested in the future, they should remain silent other than asking the police to contact you.
Step 2: Contact an Attorney
Because DUI charges for teens can carry such heavy penalties, you will want to make sure that your teen has a proactive defense. This is true even if you know that your teen is guilty. A good attorney can be the difference between probation or serving actual jail time.
What's more, minors are especially vulnerable to having their civil rights violated during the legal process. A teenager may be less certain of their rights and feel less empowered to question an authority figure who is violating their rights. An attorney's job is to make sure that your teen's rights are protected throughout the arrest, arraignment, hearing, and trial or plea negotiations.
Step 3: Inquire About The Charges
Your teen may face more than just the DUI charges. For example, if your teen has other teenagers in the car with them, they could be charged with child endangerment. They could be charged with possession of alcohol, drugs, or drug paraphernalia if any of these are found in the car. They could also be charged with reckless driving and other types of moving violations. In order to mount an effective defense, you need to know exactly what your teen is being charged with, and why. Don't assume that DUI is the only charge.
Step 4: Question the Evidence
Don't assume that the prosecutor has an airtight case just because your teen took a breathalyzer test or even a blood test. A breathalyzer result can be inaccurate due to a number of different factors, including user error, improper calibration, the presence of alcohol in the mouth of the person being tested, and even radio frequency interference.
Blood testing is generally considered to be accurate, but there are still many ways that a blood sample could be tainted during the drawing, storage, or testing process.
Your teen should describe the evidence collected during their arrest in detail to their attorney so that the attorney can determine whether or not any irregularities in the process can be used in your teen's defense.
Hopefully, your teen will avoid drinking and driving in the first place, but even well-behaved teenagers sometimes break the rules. Because the legal consequences of an underage DUI conviction are so severe, a teen who is charged with a DUI will need good legal representation in addition to parental support. If your teen is facing DUI charges, contact an experienced DUI accident lawyer in your area for help.