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When zero tolerance laws get sober teens in trouble

The subject of underage drinking is a serious one in New York.
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    December 07, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- When zero tolerance laws get sober teens in trouble

For decades, parents and teachers across the country have attempted to instill into the nation's youth the wisdom of not drinking and driving, and of making sure friends don't drive drunk. Various drunk driving awareness programs have focused on the message of keeping friends from either getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, or getting into a vehicle with someone who has been drinking. So what happens when a sober teen attempts to help a friend who has asked for help getting safely home, yet gets into trouble for being a Good Samaritan?

The subject of underage drinking is a serious one in New York. According to The Century Council, 38 people died in accidents involving underage drinking in the state in 2011, while there were 216 DUI arrests of drivers under age 18. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that underage youth drink about 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the country -- and nearly all of it is dangerous binge drinking. Out of a survey of U.S. high school students, 24 percent admitted they'd ridden in a car with a driver who was drunk within the past month.

A good deed gone wrong

It makes sense to encourage teens to get a safe ride home if they've been drinking, rather than risk getting hurt in an accident or hurting someone else. Recently, a Massachusetts high school student who had been drinking at a party called her friend for help getting home, said The Post-Standard. Her friend, a senior and honor student, drove to the party to pick up the girl just minutes before police arrived. While several students were charged for underage drinking, police realized the girl's friend hadn't been drinking and let her go. However, when school officials found out about the incident, she was demoted as captain of the volleyball team and suspended for five games. School officials said their zero tolerance policy against drug and alcohol abuse didn't make allowances for a student who hadn't had a drink, who was attempting to get her friend home safely.

This situation asks the question of whether many schools' zero tolerance rules are fair to those who are attempting to do the right thing. While the student wasn't arrested, she was penalized by her school despite not attending or drinking at the party. It's also possible the police at the scene might have mistaken her for a party attendee, and arrested her before finding out she'd been sober. If that had happened, she could have faced criminal and legal charges in addition to the punishment her school meted out.

When to contact an attorney

People who have been arrested on DUI charges have the right to be treated fairly in court and to hear their side heard before receiving a conviction. It's especially important for those who feel they've been arrested on false charges, such as sober people who happen to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. An experienced drunk driving defense attorney can represent the rights of youth who have been arrested on DUI charges.

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