Drinking and driving could cost you your license. Unless you’re underage… then you don’t need to be driving.

You know that party that all the underage high-school kids were at?  The one that got busted by the police and a bunch of kids got charged with underage drinking?  Maybe you don’t know the specific party I’m talking about, but you know what I’m talking about- it happens all the time.  You read about it in the paper.  With summer in full swing right now, you can’t flip through the Kane County Chronicle without seeing another similar story:

Fifteen teens, 5 juveniles charged with drinking in Batavia

BATAVIA – Fifteen teenagers and five juveniles were charged with underage drinking after police were called at 12:13 a.m. Wednesday to the 1100 block of Woodland Hills Road for a complaint of an unlawful residential gathering…

I read about this stuff in the paper, too. Unfortunately, I see the other side of it as well– the side where all these kids walk into court, with disappointed parents in tow, and plead guilty.  Because, well, when kids do something wrong parents are there to tell them to accept responsibility and “do the right thing.”  Of course, what a lot of parents don’t know is that they’re walking their kids into a driver’s license suspension.

It doesn’t matter if the kids and alcohol are sitting on a swing set in a part in Geneva, in a private basement in St. Charles, or at an “unlawful residential gathering in Batavia.”  They don’t have to be driving. They don’t even have to be near a car.  They can have their license suspended if they’re found guilty- even if they get supervision.

The judge doesn’t have to tell them that, either.  Some judges do- others don’t.  Many of the families find out about the suspensions when they get a letter from the Secretary of State’s Office.

It’s not uncommon to see them running back to court, though.  It’s one thing to make a kid do some community service or pay a fine. It’s another to keep him from getting to work or helping his parents by picking up the siblings.  For some parents (even the most well meaning parents who wanted their kid to “do the right thing”) the loss of a license is a much of a burden on the family as it is on the kid.

So, they end up back in court on a motion to vacate the initial plea of guilty.  Sometimes they get that done in the required 30 days.  Sometimes they don’t.

How’s that turn out?  It can turn out a lot of ways.  Sometimes it’s all a waste of time.  Sometimes they can get the charge amended.

So, what’s the point?  The point is this: I’m not shy about telling people they don’t need a lawyer for the small stuff.  When it comes to underage possession or underage consumption of alcohol, though, it’s best to at least call and talk to a lawyer.  You really ought to know what you’re getting into before you get into it.   You should also know if there’s some way to avoid consequences you might not even know about.  Hopefully these kids in Batavia will figure that out before it’s too late.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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