Back to School, Drugs, DUI'S and Your Children

It's back to school time and while many parents will celebrate the return to routine and structure, it is an important time to discuss with your children, especially in high school, the dangers and temptations that often arise when friends get together.

While New Jersey is on the forefront of diverting drug users from the court system with programs such as Drug Court, PTI and Conditional Discharge, that initial arrest can still be a traumatic, costly and impactful experience. If charged with Driving Under the Influence, a motor vehicle offence, there is no such diversionary options and often a DUI can have an even greater impact on the lives of clients and their families then a possession of controlled substance charge.

For some, an arrest is just the type of experience that will scare a kid straight, but an arrest can impact job and college applications, particularly since DUIs are NOT eligible for expungement (or an erase of the arrest). While we all know of the risks of drunk driving, the expense associated is often a shock: fines routinely reach $1,000.00, the DMV imposes a surcharge for 3 years following a first-time DUI conviction, and insurance rates are impacted for both the child and usually mom and dad who cover the child. And while the financial impact is nothing to minimize, even more important is what if someone gets hurt?

You see it in the news and think, "Really, heroin, here?" But heroin is no joke. We see it destroy promising young people every day and despite the best efforts of all involved, it seems to be a demon that once unleashed cannot easily be beat. Your children simply cannot experiment, it is just different. For those who have already pushed their substance use beyond a one-time experiment, it is essential for parents to work with professionals to address any substance abuse before it becomes life-altering.

So, how can we talk to our children in an age-appropriate way about such dangers without accusing or alienating them? Experts suggest relating it to something you see or do in your everyday life or something your child sees is his or her life or on the news; for example, as an attorney who represents young people charged with Drug Possession or DUI, I can explain the impact I see every day, the money spent on fines and lawyers, the loss of time at school or limitations on work or extracurricular activities, the loss of license, and the very real risk of physical harm or even death to young people from accidents or overdose.

New Jersey does NOT (despite recent efforts in the legislature to introduce such an option) have a restricted license to allow those convicted of a first-time DUI to drive to and from work or school, so many individuals face the reality of losing a job or missing school and activities. This can burden the whole family, especially in our rural communities of Hunterdon County where public transportation is limited.

Prevention is truly the only way to assure the safety of your children; consider a "No Questions Asked" policy if your son or daughter needs a ride home if it gets to that point. Encourage them to trust their own judgment if they start to feel uncomfortable and remind them they will be grateful they made the right choice to call. But for this to work, you must follow through by not asking too much or reprimanding them if they make the right choice to call.

It is a scary topic to bring up with our children, but pretending they don't see or hear about drugs and alcohol is not an option. If you would like to discuss any of these issues and how they overlap with our court system, please call Allison Roberts with The Deni Law Group at 908-782-2900.


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