Although you may have been under the impression that your child was close to perfect and would never be charged with a DUI, it is important to realize that everyone makes mistakes at some point in their lives, especially during their adolescent and teenage years. You may have spent a great deal of time teaching them what’s wrong and what’s right, but sometimes, they may still become curious and make the wrong choice when it comes to drinking and driving.

While this can be very dangerous, most teenagers do not think about the dangers of getting behind the wheel after having drinks but instead only think about the punishment they may receive if they do not make it home by a certain time.

Does Tennessee have DUI penalties specifically for minor and teenage drivers?

Tennessee has DUI penalties specifically for minor and teenage drivers:

  • The minor or teenage driver’s license will be suspended for either one year or until the individual turns 17 years of age (depending on which is longer). This is for a first offense of underage drinking and driving.
  • The minor or teenage driver’s license will be suspended for either two years or until the individual turns 18 years of age (depending on which is longer).
  • A special restricted license may be given by the court for a first offense.
  • A minor or teenager who has two or more offenses cannot receive a special restricted license until they at least serve one year of license suspension.

Under Tennessee’s law for underage drinking and driving:

  • The minor or teenage driver’s license will be revoked for one year, and no special restricted license will be provided.
  • The minor or teenage driver will be ordered to pay a $250 fine.
  • There is a possibility that the court will require the minor or teenage driver to participate in community service or public service work.

How can a DUI conviction affect my child’s life?

Unfortunately, there is a high likelihood that your child will face various hurdles and challenges in their everyday life because of their DUI conviction. Fortunately, Tennessee allows minors the possibility of diversion and expungement for underage driving while impaired charges that are not available to those 21 years or older with DUI charges.  Avoiding a conviction is important, because a permanent conviction can present future challenges such as:

  • Difficulties finding and keeping a job: When your child applies or interviews for jobs, they will most likely need to write down or explain that they received a DUI before. While this is information that most employers want to know, it can be embarrassing and humiliating for your child. In addition, the employer may decide to go with someone who doesn’t have a DUI over your child.
  • Difficulties being accepted and getting into colleges: If your child is applying to colleges, they may need to disclose that they had a prior DUI on their college application. This could be a determining factor for some colleges when deciding who they should admit to their school.
  • Difficulties securing scholarships for college: If your child was already accepted into a college before the DUI charge, they may need to secure scholarships in order to afford it. However, if the scholarships ask about a DUI, there is a chance that the scholarship provider may choose another child to receive the scholarship as a DUI charge may be a judgment factor.
  • Difficulties getting to certain locations without a driver’s license: If your child’s driver’s license is suspended or revoked due to a DUI, they may have a difficult time getting to their jobs, sports events, college classes, and more. This can certainly affect their life as they may be on the verge of being fired from their job, being thrown out of school, or even losing friends and their social life.

We understand that drunk driving is both dangerous and illegal, but we also understand that kids make mistakes. Even your responsible, well-behaved child can make a poor decision. What we want to stress to you is that this specific decision can have long-term effects on your child’s life. Our goal is to ensure that they don’t suffer irreparable harm because of one bad choice.

As a parent, what can I do to help my child who was charged with a DUI?

While it is normal to be angry and worried after your child is charged with a DUI, it is crucial to remember that they are likely terrified, worried, and overwhelmed as well. Just like you, they may not know what to do or where to turn next. That is why it is important that you take the time to calm down and gather your thoughts before talking about the DUI with your child. After you feel like you have calmed down and are ready to help your child who was charged with a DUI, you should consider taking these five steps:

  1. Schedule a consultation with a Sevierville DUI defense attorney to learn about your child’s potential legal options and how an attorney may be able to help. Your child will explain their side of the story to the attorney, and the attorney will develop a defense strategy based on everything your child tells them. You should encourage your child to be 100 percent honest with us at all times. We don’t judge our clients, but we cannot be as effective if we don’t know the whole story.
  2. Help your child get ready for their court hearing. Your child will likely be scared about going to court. We can talk to them about what to expect during the hearing, what they may be asked, how they should speak, what they should wear, and more. Your job is to help impress upon them the seriousness of what is to come and encourage them to ask questions.
  3. Ensure they follow the rules set forth by the court. If they’re ordered to attend alcohol education classes, make them go. If they are granted a judicial diversion, make sure they follow whatever orders are made as part of that agreement. If their license is suspended, help them find alternatives to getting to their sports practices, college classes, or to work during those 12 months. The last thing you want is your child to choose to drive with a suspended license.
  4. Have a conversation about if they decide to drink again in the future. Explain to them how it is important that they call a rideshare service, friend, an older sibling, or even you to drive them home or to whatever location they need to go. If they receive another DUI charge, it can ruin their reputation and affect their life even further.
  5. Be supportive and seek support for yourself. This is an incredibly tough time for all of you.

If your minor or teenage child was recently charged with driving under the influence, the Sevierville DUI defense lawyers at Delius & McKenzie are ready and available to legally assist you. We always have your child’s best interests in mind, and we will do all that we can to ensure that their penalties are reduced as much as possible. Whether you are located in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, or Seymour, complete our contact form to schedule your consultation today.