Even before they are able to drive, many kids have heard the message, “Friends don’t like friends drive drunk.”
It’s good advice, and it’s especially valuable to teens. Not only are they involved in a disproportionate number of fatal DUI crashes, they tend to be more susceptible to peer pressure than other age groups. Our underage DUI defense lawyers in Birmingham know that a friend’s attempt to convince another teen not to drink and drive may ultimately prove more successful than similar efforts by an adult.
So why on earth local police and school officials in Massachusetts took the action they recently did against one stand-out high school senior is beyond us.
According to media reports, the school’s girl’s team volleyball captain, 17, received a call one weekend night from a friend. The girl on the other line said she was at a party, too drunk to drive and asked if her friend could come and pick her up so she wouldn’t have to get behind the wheel. The 17-year-old agreed without question. Better than the alternative, she thought.
However, by the she arrived, the cops were also arriving. The scene was somewhat chaotic, with approximately a dozen kids scattering the residence and more inside being arrested and cited for underage drinking. Several more, including the 17-year-old sober driver, were given summons to appear for the same crime.
The officer on the scene substantiated her claim that she had not been drinking. Her story checked out. She had only just arrived at the house. But she was issued a summons anyway. Not only was she forced to appear in court, she was subsequently stripped from her title as captain of the volleyball team and suspended for a number of games.
Facing a major public backlash for its actions, the school has defended its position by saying that it is working to take a “serious and principled stand” on the issue of alcohol. However, it appears this is exactly the wrong message to send.
In all likelihood, the underage drinking charge against this teen will be dropped, as there is no evidence to support it. Her parents have filed a civil lawsuit in the hopes of pressuring the school to reverse its disciplinary action against the girl and to discourage similar sanctions in the future.
Let’s say her friend had gotten behind the wheel. In Alabama, an under 21 DUI is penalized the same as if the driver was an adult. However, the threshold for what is considered “drunk” is far lower – 0.02 percent blood-alcohol level as opposed to 0.08 percent. She would have faced up to one year of imprisonment, a fine of up to $2,100, a three-month license suspension and far higher auto insurance rates. That doesn’t include the additional consequences she might have incurred had she been involved in an accident, particularly one with injuries.
Punishing someone for trying to prevent this may technically be in line with the school’s zero tolerance policy. She was, after all, technically at a place where minors were being served alcohol. However, the actions against her make zero sense.
Zero tolerance makes zero sense: Teen punished for helping drunk friend, Oct. 15, 2013, By Kelly Wallace, CNN
More Blog Entries:
New DUI Defense: Too Drunk to be Prosecuted? Oct. 12, 2013, Birmingham Underage DUI Defense Lawyer Blog