Common Misconceptions about Minor DUI Charges
Interviewer: What would you say are some of the misconceptions that juveniles and minors have about DUI process?
It Is Common for Minors Not to Understand the Ramifications of Drinking and Driving
Matthew Nebeker: I think that the biggest misconception is the ramifications of the arrest and the charges, and a possible conviction. First of all, they think they’re just out there having fun and having a good time, and they may be experimenting with drugs or alcohol. They don’t know how this affects their bodies and their ability to drive.
They don’t get that they could seriously hurt themselves by getting in an accident or they could seriously hurt someone else and someone’s family.
Most Minors Do Not Understand That a Conviction Will Impact Their Future
That’s the first part of it, but I think the bigger part of it is just what happens with their life. Instead of worrying about going to school or getting through their college or graduating high school, they have to worry about checking in with a probation officer. They have to worry about going to drug and alcohol classes. They have to worry about paying all these fines.
Then, once they get all that behind them, then they have to deal with the conviction if they’re applying for a special type of job or that they’re trying to get into a college. They are going to find most of employers or schools or things like that and they’re going to find that information out about them.
Some Minors and Their Families Do Not Comprehend the Importance of Strenuously Defending a First Offense
Interviewer: Have you ever dealt with minors that have this notion that they don’t want to defend themselves?
Matthew Nebeker: Yes. There have been a lot of times where the minor will come in with their parents and they’ll say, “Well, this is a first offense, they’ll just slap our wrists and we’ll be done with it, and be on our way. We don’t really need an attorney.” Minors tend to think that they know it all and they feel like the officer may not have done his job properly and that they can just tell that to the judge.
They think that they walked the straight line perfectly and they balanced on one foot perfectly, and there’s nothing wrong with their eyes. Once they tell that judge that in court, the judge will just dismiss it.
Many Minors Underestimate the Severity of the Penalties They Can Face for a First Offense
They have a real misconception about the way the court operates and the procedures, and the rules that the court is bound by. They just can’t go in there and tell that to the judge, and expect their case to be dismissed. They think, “Well, this is just the first offense, nothing is really going to happen to me. The consequences won’t be that bad,” and so they just go in there and they plead guilty.
That’s not the right way to think about it. You don’t want to go in there on your own. You want to go in there with an attorney because he knows what’s going in, what needs to be done, and what to look for.
Underage Drivers Tend to Be Cooperative with the Police When They are Pulled over
Interviewer: Do minors tend to refuse to undergo the Breathalyzer tests or they’re more cooperative?
Matthew Nebeker: I would say that I really don’t see that many refusals when I’m dealing with minors, at least the ones who are under 18.
When they have contact with law enforcement, they’re pretty afraid of, “What’s going to happen if they tell it to my mom.” They try to minimize the damages, the consequences that can happen and so most of them will cooperate with the officers and do whatever the officers ask.
Utah Has Statute’s That Apply to Underage Drivers That Refuse to Undergo Chemical Testing
Our statute here as far as minors takes in to consideration minors who do refuse. If you’re under 21 years old and you refuse to submit to the chemical test, that’s breath, blood or urine test, they will revoke your license for 2 years or until you’re 21, whichever is longer, on the first offense.
For some reason if you’re under 21 years of age and you have a second offense and you refuse, you’re looking at a 36-month revocation or until you’re 21, whichever is longer. That’s pretty stiff—2 years or 3 years for refusal, for someone to go without their license.
More Minor Drivers Are Willing to Perform the Field Sobriety Tests
Interviewer: Do you see that minors are more willing to perform the field sobriety tests because they are confident in their abilities?
Matthew Nebeker: That’s been my experience because the people that are over 21, they lived their life a little bit more and a lot of them have medical conditions. They’ve had injuries whether it’s playing sports or get in auto accidents or whatever.
Most of the drivers who are under 21 are in good health and good physical condition and if the officer asks them, “Do you have any injuries or illness that will affect you to do these tests?” They answer quickly that, “No, I don’t have anything,” and they go ahead and do the test.