While any DUI case can be a frantic, emotionally taxing situation, it’s even worse to be a parent and learn that your child has been pulled over and charged with drunk driving. Once you get that call, it’s natural to be confronted with a wave of questions. Are they safe? Was there a crash? What does this mean for their driver’s license, and are they in danger of going to jail?
Once the dust settles and it’s established that your child is physically safe, the biggest remaining question is also the hardest for a stressed-out parent to answer: What now?
In this post, we’ve asked Mr. Mark Sobel, Esq., the Vice President of JC Law’s Criminal Department, to share three of the most important factors to consider if your child is charged with driving under the influence.
1. The specific court jurisdiction for your child’s case.
Our first factor to consider is your child’s age—namely whether they’re at least 18 years old—as this has huge implications for their case going forward. Those under 18 years of age will be charged in the juvenile court system of the specific county where the alleged DUI occurred. Juvenile court proceedings are sealed, meaning that the case record cannot be opened without a judge’s permission, and juvenile cases often place a far greater emphasis on rehabilitation for the accused as opposed to punishment for the crime committed. Naturally, this may (keyword: “MAY”) lead to a more lenient, less impactful outcome for those convicted, and the greater privacy that comes with a case being sealed often means that it’ll come up less often for your child in the future when it comes to something like a background check for a job search.
For those over 18 years of age, they’ll be charged as an adult and their case will be handled in the district court of whichever county where the alleged crime occurred. While being charged as an adult doesn’t automatically equate to a harsher sentence, it doesn’t carry with it the benefit of the case being sealed, and it’s therefore a matter of public record that can be accessed by a simple search on your state’s respective case search system.
2. Stiffer administrative penalties.
While your child being a minor can benefit them if their case is handled in juvenile court, their youth can have the opposite effect when it comes to the Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MVA) response to their case. The MVA has a zero-tolerance policy for someone under 21 driving while impaired or under the influence of alcohol, and will require the licensee to install an ignition interlock system (commonly referred to as a “breathalyzer”) in their car if they’re found to have even the slightest amount of alcohol in their system while driving.
Considering that many DUI cases are often open and shut as far as determining guilt, the installation and management of an ignition interlock can be an inconvenience at best and an expensive burden at the worst. This is especially true if an ignition interlock were to be installed on a car used by multiple family members, including adults, because total sobriety would be required to start the car even if it was by an adult with a BAC well below the legal limit.
3. Need for treatment.
Our third and final point has less to do with the legal process and is a more personal consideration for a child’s wellbeing. By law, a person under 21 is not supposed to be drinking alcohol at all (let alone while driving), and if your child were to be charged with a DUI while under 21 years of age, it’s imperative that they be evaluated for alcohol dependency or addiction and begin a treatment program as soon as possible.
While this evaluation and treatment is not only important for their case—as it can help demonstrate to the court that a child is actively working to treat whatever underlying issues may have led to their DUI—it’s also critical to determine if your child has a genuine alcohol problem in the first place, and work to rectify that issue as early as possible to avoid further legal problems or emotional and physical hardship moving forward.
No matter what, call a lawyer.
As we covered in the intro, any DUI case is stressful, and that stress is greatly compounded if your child is the one being charged. You and your child are likely scared, confused, and don’t know what your next step should be.
We’re here to tell you that that next step is plain and simple: contact a lawyer.
No matter how intimidating a DUI charge may be, an experienced criminal defense attorney will help steer your family in the right direction, guiding you through the entire legal process on your way to securing the best possible outcome for your child.
Don’t wait, contact JC Law today.
In any legal battle, it’s important to remember that you and your family are not alone, and help is always there if you take the steps to seek it out.
If you or a loved one are facing a DUI charge, don’t waste any time getting the help you need. Call our firm at (888) JCLAW-10 for a free, one-on-one consultation with a member of our experienced criminal defense team, or visit our contact page to schedule your consultation at your convenience.
Remember: at JC Law, we aren’t just your lawyer. We’re your legal ally.