Underage DUIs: Helping Your Child After a Mistake

Underage DUIs: Helping Your Child After a MistakeWe all remember what it’s like to be a teenager. Some of us may have had a better time than others (though, really — who enjoys being a teenager?) but for the most part, we can agree it’s a time of chaos and experimentation, usually with a reckless abandon. Before we hurt our backs sleeping wrong, before we had to pay our own taxes, there was probably a time where we remember feeling immortal. Of course, this also means remembering when we learned the hard way, and that is not something the newer generations have avoided either. When kids feel too much like adults, they sometimes act without thinking in an effort to prove it.

These decisions can lead to a domino effect of poor choices, and they can end with someone getting hurt — or in serious trouble. If your child was caught drinking and driving, for example, they could be facing a DUI conviction, which is no walk in the park. Choosing the right representation and understanding Tennessee law can help ensure your child is treated with both fairness and mercy by the law. One mistake as a child should not tarnish the rest of their lives.

Drinking before turning 21 is common, right or wrong

Be honest. Even if you grew up in the era where 18 was America’s drinking age, you probably snuck a sip or two before your birthday. Maybe more than a “sip.” It is likely the most common rule for teenagers to break at some point and, while definitely not endorsed or encouraged, it is usually just not that big of a deal. However, when teenagers get carried away, as they sometimes do, it can lead to some less-than-stellar decision making. Partying and binge-drinking have their own set of issues, but when those events lead to someone deciding to get behind the wheel, the situation escalates tenfold. Now, there is real danger — in more ways than one.

To make sure that situation never happens, the best thing you can do is have an open dialogue with your children about the risks and dangers of alcohol use, and why driving under the influence is never an acceptable option. Try to make the conversation more about helping them stay safe rather than enforcing rules they may be tempted to rebel against. In 2018, a study found that over 30 percent of minors in Tennessee have had a significant amount of alcohol, so it is safe to say this is probably something you will need to address. Make sure they know that, even if they broke all the rules and went out and got drunk, they can still count on you for safe transportation home. And, of course, make sure they understand the legal implications of being charged with a DUI-related crime.

Why your child’s DUI arrest needs strong representation

Actions have consequences. On some level, that is unavoidable. However, the law was created by people who understand people, which means some leeway can be afforded to those under age. When it comes to DUIs, your child could be charged with either a standard DUI or an underage DUI, and this decision is largely up to the prosecution. That decision can make a world of difference, which is why you want aggressive representation to encourage them in the right direction. If your child ignored your advice and got caught, this is what they could be up against.

Underage DUIs apply to those who were caught driving under the influence with a BAC of less than .08 percent. If this applies to your child’s case, they can only be charged with an underage DUI. However, if their BAC was above .08%, they could be charged with either per the prosecution’s discretion. That one word — “underage” — means the charge carries much milder consequences better suited for a child who made a mistake, including:

  • Community service
  • License suspension (with no option for a restricted license unlike standard DUIs)
  • Fines, usually up to $250

While your teenager may still not like any of these options, they are definitely preferable to those provided by a standard DUI conviction, even if it’s their first offense:

  • Jail time, up to a year and at least 48 hours
  • Expensive fines and all fees related to the towing, bail, impounding, and reinstatement involved in your case
  • Ignition interlock devices, which the defendant is required to pay for
  • Loss of license for a year, though your attorney may be able to help your child get a restricted license

Remember, these are the least severe standard DUI consequences in Tennessee. For every additional factor, every person hurt, and every future conviction, the punishments become more severe and more expensive. This is something you want your child to avoid at all costs, if at all possible. Choosing an experienced DUI defense attorney can help ensure that happens, no matter what the specific details of the case may be. Everyone makes mistakes when they’re young, and those mistakes don’t mean they don’t deserve to have their rights protected and fought for with the same compassion, care, and tenacity given to adults.

At Shepherd & Long, P.C, our Maryville DUI defense attorneys have years of experience helping people fight convictions from all walks of life. We take pride in protecting our clients’ freedoms and helping them get back to living their lives. If your child is facing a DUI charge of any sort, we are here to help throughout East Tennessee and Blount County. Give us a call today at 865-982-8060 or use our contact form to get started.