Sending a child to college is one of the most exciting yet terrifying things a parent can do. Possibly for the first time, you are trusting your child to make important decisions about their health and safety without your supervision.
With this new freedom and responsibility, your student will inevitably make mistakes. Some will be easy to fix, others may be quite serious. If your child gets arrested for a DUI or DWI, it can be stressful and confusing trying to figure out what to do by yourself.
In this blog post, I will explain how you and your student should proceed from the time of their arrest to when they navigate the subsequent obligations.
1. Say as little as possible and do not admit guilt.
Your child has the right to remain silent. It’s true that anything they say can and will be used against them. The officer will likely ask many questions to find out where your child has been, where your child is going and if your child has been drinking.
However, more so than what your child says, the officer is looking for how they say it. Any slurred speech can be incriminating evidence that your child has been drunk driving.
A child under the age of 21 in Mississippi and 18 in Tennessee who undertakes the alcohol tests and is under the adult legal limit is still cited because just being under the influence is against the law when it involves a minor child.
2. Be prepared for field sobriety and breathalyzer tests.
In Mississippi and Tennessee, you have the right to refuse being subjected to a field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests and blood draws. These are taken because the officer is trying to obtain evidence that a person stopped for a DUI or DWI has been drinking or is under the influence of a drug. However, failure to undertake these tests will suspend your driving privileges for up to 120 days.
Field sobriety tests are only somewhat reliable as there are too many factors which impact their reliability such as being nervous around the police, taking the test in the dark and gravel on the street. Just refusing the test does not guarantee an automatic dismissal of the case because much of the evidence used against you outside of these tests is the officer’s testimony based on what he could see, hear and smell. In fact, overall it is solely up to the officer to determine whether a person has been drinking.
If your child is asked to take a breathalyzer test, however, they probably should. Refusal to take one can be used as evidence of being under the influence in court. You can learn more about these tests in a previous blog post of mine.
3. Be respectful to the officer while asserting your rights.
Cooperation with the officer during a stop is in your child’s best interest. Being respectful and courteous can help prevent escalating the situation.
4. Contact a bonding company and in-state attorney.
I advise contacting a bonding company to post bail and get your child out of jail. Then, contact a local attorney for representation and to minimize potential consequences. Local attorneys are familiar with the court’s procedures and local prosecutors.
5. Communicate with the bonding company.
Bonding companies handle large financial risks by helping customers pay bonds for themselves or loved ones. Because of this, they will likely take many precautions and expect consistent communication.
The bonding company might periodically call you or your child to check in and stay updated about court dates. This is because bond will not be returned in the event of a skipped court appearance.
Also, be sure that you or your child informs the bonding company if they will be traveling out-of-state for any reason.
6. Self-report the DUI/DWI to the university.
Encourage your child to be proactive in communicating with their university. The situation will go before a board to discuss the consequences of the DUI/DWI. An attorney can represent your child in this meeting. One of the most likely consequences is academic probation.
7. Be familiar with your child’s court date and encourage compliance with all orders.
Remind your child to be on-time and polite for court appearances. If they do not make an appearance, they are subject to more penalties from the court, and you will lose the collateral used to secure the bond.
DUIs and DWIs are serious penalties, but your student deserves fair representation to fight for his or her education and future. If your loved one is dealing with a DUI or DWI in Mississippi or Tennessee, contact me today to discuss your case.