As a parent, knowing your teenager is out alone behind the wheel after dark can cause many a sleepless night. But, getting a call from your teen telling you they’ve just been arrested for a DUI while driving your car could end up costing you more than a few hours of sleep worrying about your child’s safety. You can expect your already high auto insurance rates to go even higher. And, that’s if your insurer doesn’t cancel your policy.
“Zero tolerance” law for anyone under 21
As for your teen driver – California has a “zero tolerance” law that forbids anyone under 21 from driving with a blood alcohol level of .01 percent or greater. Depending on the state you reside in, things only get worse from there.
Fines, penalty assessments, and suspended license
For instance, the Golden State frowns on teens getting busted for DUI’s. Not only is your teen driver looking at a $70 fine and up to $400 in penalty assessments, but also the suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicles of their driver’s license for one year…or delayed for one year, if they haven’t applied for it yet. And that’s if they weren’t involved in a wreck and didn’t injure anyone.
Furthermore, the court judge may order your teen to take part in an alcohol rehabilitation program, at your expense.
Higher blood alcohol means more trouble
Worse yet, if your teen is stopped with a blood alcohol level of .05 or higher, they can be fined $100 and face $500 in additional penalties. If your child is found to have a blood alcohol of .08 or higher, the penalty for a California DUI conviction includes three years of informal probation, $2,000 in fines and penalties, completion of a 30-hour DUI program costing you $500, and up to six months in jail.
While most teen offenders are released to their parents’ custody and aren’t jailed, if they caused a crash or injured someone, it might be a different story. Should no harm to others have resulted from their DUI, your teen may be ordered to attend “scared straight” programs at the county morgue and hospital – whether they like it or not.
In addition, a DUI conviction in California means two points on your teen’s driving record, just like an adult. Should your teen be under 18, he or she may be ordered to appear with you in juvenile traffic court, costing you possible lost wages due to time away from work. In all likelihood, their car or yours will also be impounded and towed, resulting in potentially huge storage fees that you may have to pay.
Failure to appear could result in criminal charges
If your teen is ordered to appear in court with you and neither of you show up, both of you could be subject to criminal charges for failure to appear. The court may even issue arrest warrants for you and your child and deem you an irresponsible parent, leading to your teen being removed from your custody.
And, it doesn’t get any better for your teen if he or she is 18-19 years old. They’ll be arrested for the DUI, same as most adult offenders, and held in jail for as long as it takes for them to sober up – in most cases without having to post bail, but they’ll have to appear in court later. However, many counties in California now require $2,500 in bail, if the offender isn’t released on their own recognizance.
Insurer could drop you and your teen
Keep in mind that for most car insurance companies a teen DUI is regarded as a “scarlet letter” and a great many of them will drop the entire family rather than take further risk.
Your teen’s driving record tends to be judged as a reflection of you and your parenting skills, and insurers prefer to avoid anyone “in a household with a DUI”, says Troy Thompson, owner of Pinnacle Insurance Agency in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. And, “If an insurer does keep the family policy, parents with such a teen will likely see their auto insurance rates double or triple”, according to Thompson. (Fortunately, Freeway Insurance can help get you covered – even with accidents, tickets, and DUIs.)
It’s always a good idea to discuss the importance of not drinking and driving, avoiding any type of distracted driving, and staying completely focused when behind the wheel – before letting your teen get their driver’s license and handing them the keys to the family car or allowing them to buy their own. The more you stress safety and responsibility to your teen, the less stress you’re likely to have.