Parents Dealing With Juvenile DUI Laws
A child’s DUI arrest is something most parents never imagine will happen to them. For parents in Pinellas County, Florida and surrounding areas, it is a more likely scenario due to the zero tolerance laws in Florida. These laws state that if someone under the age of 21 is arrested for Driving Under the Influence, they will automatically be arrested if there is a slight amount of alcohol in their system. If your child has been arrested for a DUI offense in Florida, you may be feeling angry, confused, saddened or overwhelmed. Outlined below are the most important steps to take after your child’s arrest, and what you need to know in order to ensure the best possible outcome.
First, Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney.
The most important thing to do after your child has been arrested is contact a criminal defense attorney in Florida who understands the intricacies of juvenile law in Pinellas County. It’s important to understand that when your child was arrested, the state prosecutor immediately began gathering evidence against him. This evidence may include the impressions of the arresting officer, a videotape of the vehicle stop, and results of a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test. An experienced attorney can look at all of this evidence to decide if it was gathered legally, or whether your child’s traffic stop and arrest was unlawful.
Your attorney can also walk you through the juvenile justice system and explain what to expect based on your child’s unique circumstances. Time is of the essence when procuring legal help for your child. That’s why the very first step you should take is to hire someone with the experience, knowledge and background to best defend your child’s rights.
Punishments for Juvenile DUI in Florida Can Be Severe.
Florida has a zero tolerance policy for juvenile DUI. Because children are not legally allowed to possess or consume alcohol in the state of Florida, your child’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) does not need to be over the “legal limit” in order to be arrested. Instead, if your child’s BAC is over “.02,” he will be arrested and charged with a DUI.
Potential penalties include suspension of the child’s license, jail time, court ordered community service, probation, fines or court ordered treatment for alcohol abuse. Of course, your child may experience out of court consequences as well, such as requirements to disclose the arrest conviction on a job or college application. Your attorney will look at your child’s unique circumstances and help prepare you for the possible consequences your child will face.
The most probable consequence of underage drinking and driving is immediate suspension of the child’s driver’s license. The immediate suspension can possibly be reversed by requesting an administrative hearing. The hearing must be requested within 10 days of the arrest. However, if no hearing is requested, or if your child loses at the hearing, their license will be suspended for six months if it is their first offense. It is possible for your child’s license to be suspended for up to twelve months for subsequent offenses.
If your child’s BAC is “.05” or above, the suspension will remain in place until he completes a substance abuse evaluation and treatment course.
Should Your Child Have Blown on the Breathalyzer?
The laws in Florida state that if your child refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test, their driver’s license will automatically be suspended for a longer period. If it’s their first offense, your child’s license will be suspended for twelve months. For subsequent offenses, the suspension time is eighteen months.
Whether your child submits to the breathalyzer test or not, your first step should be to contact an attorney. Your Pinellas County DUI defense attorney can file for the administrative hearing on your child’s behalf within ten days of the arrest. At the hearing, your attorney will have an opportunity to both fight the suspension of the license and gather information and evidence which might be useful in a later criminal trial.
Voluntary Treatment Can Be Beneficial To Your Child.
For some children, a DUI arrest is the inevitable result of a serious drinking habit. If you believe your child has a drinking problem, you should use this arrest as an opportunity to talk to your child and explore options for treatment. Not only will treatment help prevent subsequent arrests and health problems, but seeking voluntary treatment may also help secure a lighter sentence for your child. You should discuss this possibility with your child’s attorney.
Some parents may view a DUI arrest as an opportunity to discuss the risks of alcohol abuse with their children. Although it is not an optimum situation, sometimes a DUI arrest is the only way for your child to understand the ramifications of alcohol abuse.