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What Should I Do if My Teenager Gets a DUI?

Franklin underage DUI attorney explains

Getting caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result in serious penalties for any driver. But if a teenager is caught, the criteria for prosecution is lower and the penalties can have long-lasting consequences.

Anyone under the age of 21 can be charged with driving while intoxicated, or the lesser included offense of driving while impaired, if their blood- or breath-alcohol content level is 0.02 percent or more. Also, Tennessee is an implied consent state, which means that when you get your driver’s license, you agree to take a breath-alcohol test if you are asked to do so by a police officer who has probable cause. So simply refusing to take such a test can result in arrest.

Penalties for underage driving while intoxicated or impaired are suspension of the offender’s driver license for one year, a fine of $250, and public service work in the discretion of the court. For offenders who are at least 18, but under 21, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor.

For those under the age of 18, the offense is a delinquent act that would be handled in Juvenile Court. The punishment according to the law is still suspension of driver license for one year, a fine of $250, and public service work in the discretion of the court. The Juvenile Court is required to determine whether the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation, so the Judge has the authority to take further action, such as putting the teen on supervised probation, putting the teen in DCS custody, and possibly notifying the child’s school about the disposition of the case. The court that issues an order of denial of driving privileges for the teen can, in its discretion, allow the teen to obtain a restricted driver license. However, the restricted license may be issued only if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that an economic, educational, or health-related hardship will result without the license. The restricted license is very restricted and may not even allow for travel to and from school or a job.

Other traffic offenses that can result in criminal charges include accidents that result in a fatality, driving while your license is revoked or suspended, driving without a license, or refusing to take a breath test such as the one designed to see if you are driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Teens can also find it harder to get a job or qualify for volunteer opportunities that they need for college.

The actions that your teen takes upon being arrested can have a big impact on his chances for conviction and his sentencing. To start, you should counsel your teenagers who are under the age of 18 before they are ever stopped on suspicion of DUI that they should always consent to a blood-alcohol test or to any other field sobriety testing. Refusing to take the test will only make matters worse for them. (But this is not so true for teens 18 or over, as there are reasons both for and against taking the tests.) Tell them that they should cooperate with authorities, but that they should not make any statements about how much they have been drinking and so on until they have spoken to an attorney. Tell them to call you as soon as possible after they are arrested, rather than trying to get a friend or another parent to help them.

As soon as you have learned that your teen has been arrested for DUI, call me, Judy A. Oxford, an experienced Franklin underage DUI attorney. I will give you advice about how to proceed, including what to say and what not to say when you pick up your teenager or post bail. We will then discuss how to move forward, including how or whether your teen should make a formal statement and how to fight the charges. The sooner we can start formulating a plan, the better the chances of fighting the charges. We will have a better opportunity to gather evidence, to interview witnesses, and to investigate the circumstances to challenge the results of any BAC testing.

If your teenager driver has been arrested for driving under the influence in Tennessee, call me at (615) 791-8511 to schedule a free consultation. You can also use the secure online form on my website, and I will call you back to schedule the consultation. Don’t let your teen’s future be ruined by a DUI charge. Take action now to improve the chances of your teen avoiding conviction.