Tips for a Better Spring
Let's start with driving itself. Your under-18 drivers should know that they can't be at the wheel between 1:00 and 4:00 a.m. no matter how great the party is; that they can't have more than one passenger under 25 who's not a family member; and that they can't have more passengers than the vehicle has seat belts - everyone under 18 actually has to wear the seat belts, too. Then, if they get caught bending any of these rules, or speeding, or texting while driving, or probably doing just about anything else wrong while the vehicle is in motion, they'll not only pay a hefty fine, but if they're not yet 21, they'll also lose their licenses for 20 days the first time around, 45 days the next time, and 90 days or more after that.
On to alcohol. The first offense for under-21 possession costs $372, and if your youngsters are driving, they'll be charged even if there's someone over 21 in the car, 'cause the driver's deemed to be in control of everything in the vehicle. The second time around the mandatory fine is at least twice as much; their driver's licenses will likely get yanked for at least 60 days more; and their - so probably your - insurance premiums will balloon dramatically for several years. And if the driver's actually been drinking, you can consult another entry here on our website for what I said about that sobering scenario.
A corollary here deals with the fake ID purchase of alcohol. If a kid gets caught with one of those - and you'd be surprised how many have them - it's actually more serious than the alcohol itself. Possession of alcohol is a non-criminal violation, but the fake ID puts a criminal conviction on the record that can change the whole complexion of a young person's employment prospects.
Let's talk about you for a minute. Some parents still think they can make it all better by having the under-age alcohol party at their house and just hanging onto everyone's car keys for the night. The problem is that this practice is now a criminal offense in itself, so don't put a criminal conviction on your own record either.
As for drugs, there's just no future on that front at all, at any age, under any circumstances. It's always a criminal charge, no matter what the substance is or how much, so that goes on the record - and the entry level fine is at least $434. Plus, in today's competitive job market, employers usually close the file as soon as they get wind of drugs on an application - even if it's not disclosed, more and more employers are doing background checks before making a decision. I mean, why take a chance on someone who may be irresponsible, unreliable, even dishonest - their words - when they've got so many others to choose from without that baggie, er, baggage?
Finally, let's assume that they hit "delete" and none of this was absorbed into the impervious gray matter of our young folks. So now they're dealing with the cops by the side of the road, or at the party, or in the dorm. No matter what the circumstances, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be polite and respectful. I know, sometimes the cops themselves make that a tall order, but that's no excuse to ratchet up the temperature of the encounter. The bottom line is that when your young defendants get to court, they'll nearly always be treated more leniently by the prosecutors if the official report makes mention of desirable personality traits, rather describes a nasty experience where a stiff lesson needs to be taught. Needless to say, this is a suggestion we could all take to heart.