Attorney offers advice to parents on kids' drinking, driving, the law

When parents talk to their teenagers about drinking and driving, they often tell them about the dangers of getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. They tell them to never get into a car with someone who has been drinking, and often even tell their kids to call home any time of the day or night if they need a ride. But that’s only part of what teenagers need to know about drinking, driving and the law.

“Everyone knows that drinking and driving is illegal and dangerous,” said Birmingham-based DUI defense attorney Patrick Barone. “What parents often don’t talk about with their kids is what happens if they do make the mistake of driving when they shouldn’t. The consequences can follow you for the rest of your life.”

Barone said parents should talk to their teens about the realities of Michigan DUI law:

• The legal limit does not apply to you. Though the legal blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent for Michigan motorists who are over the age of 21, the limit is 0.02 percent for minors.

• You don’t have to drink a single drop to be arrested for DUI. You can be arrested and charged for driving under the influence of drugs if you have in your system any amount of drugs that may impair driving. Those drugs include legal prescription drugs such as Adderall and some antidepressants, and over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines and decongestants.

• DUI is a serious crime. A DUI conviction is not an offense that affects your driving record the way minor traffic offenses like speeding. A conviction means that you also will have a criminal record.

• DUI is one of the few crimes that can never be expunged from your record. That means a conviction will come up in background checks when apply to go to college, when you apply for jobs, and sometimes even when you pursue promotions at jobs in the future.

• If you are stopped by the police, and you are asked submit to a breathalyzer test, you may refuse, but you may be subject to immediate penalties such as the suspension of your driver’s license.

• If you are arrested for DUI, do not answer any questions that could incriminate you. You must give police your name, registration and license. But you do not have to answer any questions about whether you have been drinking or how much. Do not lie, but do not incriminate yourself.

Barone added that following an arrest, time is precious, and the sooner you can contact an attorney on behalf of your teenager, the better your chances will be of a favorable outcome that allows your child to pursue the dreams he or she is contemplating for the future.

“When talking to teenagers about drinking and driving, parents should stress the long-term consequences on a young person’s life,” Barone said. “Just one moment of bad judgment can change everything, leaving you in a position to have to fight very hard to win back your life.”

Barone is the founder and principal of Barone Defense Firm in Birmingham which exclusively practices DUI defense. He is the author of two books on drunk driving defense: “Defending Drinking Drivers” and “The DUI Book—A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding DUI Litigation in America.” He is an adjunct professor at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.