General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Is it fair to tie an underage drinking conviction to driving, if the drinking was not driving related?

Asked by ibstubro (18804points) May 23rd, 2014

We have a really good kid that works for us in Illinois. He was a passenger in a car when the driver was picked up for DWI/DUI. As he was drinking as well, he faced a 3 month suspension of his driver’s license, on top of about $5–700 in fines.

A week later, he’s at a house party when it’s raided. Another ticket, now facing license suspension until he’s 21, jail time and who knows how much fine.

Yes, we all want to keep drunk drivers off the road. I think his parents drilled that into him, and I don’t think he would drive drunk.

Finally, we’re in a rural area. It’s not a matter of it being an inconvenience taking public transportation like where the lawmakers live. It’s the difference between being able to attend school and holding a job, or not. If he freeloads from 18 to 21, is he magically going to pop out of the box and get back on the tax rolls? NO

If you’ve read all this, then thanks. It weighs on me and I’ve offered assistance with the legal bills.

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30 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

Good luck. You’re almost certainly up against it. If you’re in a rural area, it’s all but certain that the courts and the criminal justice system are desperate for the revenues realized from the fines imposed on your young friend. Where’s the incentive for a judge to grant leniency when his income hangs on the decision?

Dan_Lyons's avatar

How do they know as a passenger that he was drinking. Did he confess to the cops?

Can they prove he was drinking at this party?

Where do you live? Arkansas? Alabama? Oho, maybe Mo. Yes, they are quite backwards in Missouri (I can say this having lives several years in Branson in the 80s).

If you’ve assisted with the legal fees then he has a lawyer. if his lawyer can’t get him off these bogus charges than he must have made some extrajudicial admissions to the cops. If this is so then depending on the laws there he made have cooked his own goose.

ibstubro's avatar

Illinois. @stanleybmanly The state is sucking the rural areas dry and spitting out judges.

@Dan_Lyons, the police asked the boy, but never did any tests, at least the first offense. Yes, Missouri is backwards, but the offenses occurred in Illinois. Corruption vs backwards. I have sway that might get him off in MO.

Coloma's avatar

I live in the local town of a major rural area, after decades of rural living.
This area is premiere wine country as well. The corruption in my county is astounding. The CHP ignores all the weekend wine tasters, weaving down the roads, shitfaced after tasting at over 40 different vineyards in about a 30 mile loop, because the vineyards and tasting rooms bring in massive amounts of county revenue.

No, I do not think it even remotely fair that the non-driving kid gets his license revoked or anything to do with his driving record, being only a passenger in a vehicle of someone driving under the influence.
If he is underage then whatever penalties accompany underage drinking might apply, but his actions have zero to do with his driving.
Face it, kids will be kids and we all, or at least many of us, have taken our chances as younger people out having a good time.
I agree, drinking and driving is completely wrong, but, give the kid a break.

He was NOT driving, therefore his driving record should not even , remotely, be involved.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

If the police asked the boy but did no tests, then any competent lawyer should be able to beat that one on the grounds that your friend, since he’s a juvenile, is incompetent to make such an admission.
This is a great lesson for your friend to learn never ever never admit anything to the cops. This is the time when it is alright to lie.

Exactly how old is this boy?

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Too bad. He is not a juvenile. He is an adult.

It may be that this will be one incredibly difficult and expensive lesson.

All you ever need to tell the police is, “No, I didn’t do it” and “I want a lawyer.”

Was he under arrest when he made the admission(s)? If so had he been read his Miranda Rights? If he was not under arrest this is a moot point.

Seaofclouds's avatar

Delaware has a similar law. It’s part of their zero tolerance for underage drinking. If someone under 21 is caught drinking, it affects their ability to get their driver’s license (if they haven’t already gotten it) or they could lose it (if they already have it). It doesn’t matter if they were driving or not.

The law never bothered me. I understand it’s purpose as it’s meant to deter underage drinking. We were all told about the law in driver’s ed, so no one could really say they didn’t know. No one I knew ever got busted for underage drinking either though. I might feel different if it was happening to someone I knew.

wildpotato's avatar

Regarding your comment that you don’t think this guy would drive drunk… Just sayin, in my experience people who agree to ride with a drunk driver don’t have much of an additional mental barrier to driving drunk themselves. That said, it’s wrong to take legal action on such a basis and I agree with what Coloma wrote.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I never quite understood this one. I’ll agree with @wildpotato that the willingness to get in the car with a drunk driver was excessively stupid but I’ve known people that have been busted for underage drinking and had their license suspended for years when they were no where near a car and in some cases didn’t even own a car yet.

I get it, underage drinking is against the law, but I don’t see how that correlates with driving. I mean, I drank underage all the time but I wouldn’t even consider getting behind the wheel of a car in that state, I’m legal now and it’s still a moronic idea to me.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Apparently it’s fair to people who have lost their children or other loved ones to a drunk driver.

I am just glad I got this all out of my system back in the 70s.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@Dan_Lyons I agree, drunk driving is bad and a horrible disrespect of the safety of others, but how does drinking under age, away from a vehicle, correlate with someone drinking behind the wheel?

yes, I realize in this story the person got into a car with a drunk driver, but still, underage drinking, regardless of circumstance can result in suspension of license.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@El_Cadejo I don’t know these laws personally, but I do know the atmosphere in the US regarding drinking and driving. It has been getting more and more severe against the drunk drivers. As @Seaofclouds mentions, “It’s part of their zero tolerance for underage drinking.”

Zero tolerance is the key here. That is how it correlates. The public is apparently fine with these new laws and I can’t really blame them.

And as a teenage drinker (a long time ago) I can state, at least in my case, that they should have taken away my driver’s license when I got busted for simple public intoxication at a UCLA party back in the early 70s.
Because it was a sign that I was drinking enough to be obvious to the police and therefore there was a possibility that I would get behind the wheel intoxicated, too. And believe me, I did quite often do just that.
And even though these laws seem harsh, they will undoubtedly save many lives including the lives of the drunken drivers.
It is unfortunate that we need to use Big Brother tactics against drunks, but let’s face it, they are a danger to themselves and others (yes, I no longer drink alcohol and have not had any in years, because of my own choice in the matter) and they obviously have little or no self control at all.

Once again in the case of @ibstubro‘s friend, he should have not admitted anything to the cops. That generally indicates an understanding of his drinking problem and a desire to be punished for it, or at least a subconscious desire to be relieved of his driver’s license to prevent him from hurting himself or others (this last may be a bit of a stretch).

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

It isn’t exactly about the drinking, although drinking is where the teens are targeted. It’s about putting someone who makes poor choices in power of a potential killing machine. My daughter, twelve, you would expect anxious to drive, believes nobody should drive before they are eighteen. She has even more rigid beliefs on that subject than do I.
I agree with such restrictions, but if this kid proves himself, he may be able to apply for a hardship license at some point.

jca's avatar

For this kid, having two legal issues related to alcohol may be a good thing and not a negative thing. Maybe he will look at his habits and his friends and realize that something is not working out for him, the way he is going.

In the end, we can all speculate till the cows come home, but it’s going to be decided by the Court with some help from the kid’s attorney. @ibstubro: Please post an update in the future when the case is done and let us know how it turned out. Like someone said, hopefully he will at least get a conditional license so he can drive to work or school.

flip86's avatar

The USA needs to abandon its ridiculous underage drinking laws. The laws only serve to exacerbate the problem. You make something forbidden and people will be drawn to it.

seekingwolf's avatar

I am so confused, if he WASN’T driving at all, why was he slapped with a DUI? Or if that’s not it, what exactly was he charged with?

Okay, he shouldn’t have been letting a drunk person drive him, but he wasn’t driving, so I fail to see why he’s being charged.

As for the party, he could just get slapped with a possession charge for having alcohol while at the party. People at my college got busted for that. I think it was pretty much like a small citation. And yeah, it was in a rural, small town too.

hearkat's avatar

I think the legislators chose to tie non-driving offenses, such as underage drinking, to the drivers license in the hopes that the loss of losing or delaying ones’ driving privilege would be a more effective deterrent.

Discussing America’s cultural and legal inconsistencies on alcohol (as well as tobacco and marijuana) in terms of “fairness” is more than I’m prepared to discuss at this time.

GloPro's avatar

Someone should point out that this really good kid broke the law, twice. Had he decided against drinking underage he wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with. A lot of kids don’t drink, and he had that choice, too.
Also, someone should explain to him that if he knows he is guilty he should not incriminate himself.
Finally, because you are worried about this kid, at least the 2nd charge is easily defeated. It is not against the law for an 18 year-old to drink at a private, non alcohol-selling premises with parental consent in Illinois. If his parents just say they knew where he was and that they knew he was drinking and gave consent then that one wasn’t even illegal.

The first one, well, I don’t see how the drinking was related to driving since he wasn’t driving, but if I were his parents regardless of the outcome of the case I would personally take his license and privilege to drive away from him for three months minimum for costing me so much money, time and stress by making poor choices… Twice.

Good luck to him. I’m sure it won’t end up the worst case scenario. I wouldn’t be worried for him.

seekingwolf's avatar


True. I personally waited until I was 21 to drink while at college, though I had been drinking at home for a couple years. I didn’t want that swill they served at frats anyway, I wanted to buy my own liquor.

While I think the DUI charge against him is completely bogus in my eyes because he wasn’t at the wheel, it is fair to point out that this kid DID make some bad choices. Drinking at a party while underage = bad idea. Getting in a car with a drunk driver = bad idea.

ibstubro's avatar

@GloPro , YOU’RE A GENIUS! His mother is ecstatic. He was not driving the first offense, either. His parents are divorced, so it might be that his father can say he knew about the first time, and his mother the second. The second time he was within walking distance of his mother’s house.

Hopefully he’s learned something. He told his sister that he’s quit drinking altogether.

I don’t know why the lawyer (who’s supposedly a family friend) did quote that right off.

Thanks to all that responded.

ibstubro's avatar

Oh, and he’s 18 so they can’t really take his license. He’s currently working 48+ hours a week, and it’s his responsibility to pay the lawyer, etc.

GloPro's avatar

Ah, to be young again. Working 48+ hours and still has the energy to go out partying :-)

Coloma's avatar

@GloPro sh—t. haha

ibstubro's avatar

No spit, @GloPro & @Coloma.

I hope the good kid can become the good adult.


funkdaddy's avatar

Here, the parent/guardian has to be present for them to be able to excuse anything, it looks to be the same in Illinois.

Alcohol Policy – Illinois

There’s also some issues with adults knowing underage follks are drinking, especially parents. At a minimum mom and dad should look into before trying that tactic.

jca's avatar

In my county, recently parents got arrested for allowing parties where there was underage drinking. Meanwhile, when I was a teen, my friend’s father stocked her basement refrigerator with beer for parties because he felt he’d rather have her home and drinking than out and drinking. Nowadays his name would be in the paper.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Fair? It doesn’t have to be fair, according to anyone in particular. If a state wants to tie an underage drinking conviction with suspension of driver license, I love it. Some states automatically suspend driver license if you get caught with any amount of marijuana. Revoked driving privileges hurt young people’s feelings. Whatever it takes. For adults with jobs, there is usually a waiver for transportation back and forth to work.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@jca My parents took this approach as well. I appreciated it. Fact of the matter was, I was going to drink regardless of the circumstances. May as well provide a safe environment where I could gradually accustom my body to alcohol rather than the kids that have been sheltered their whole life and then go nuts when they finally get that freedom.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I say let him keep the license but toss him in jail, with a very hefty fine on top with a boat load of community service.

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