The parents of the teenagers caught drinking before a school dance at Saratoga Springs High School last month are lucky:  no one was seriously hurt, drove drunk, or was arrested for DWI or DWAI.

School officials intervened appropriately and have introduced alcohol-detection devices for the upcoming high school prom.  This not only prevents those who attend the prom from drinking, but sends a powerful message to the students to avoid underage drinking and DWI.

My client, Hal (not his real name), was not so lucky.

I received a call from his frantic parents the day after he was arrested:  Hal, an 18 year-old football star, was driving his much-drunker friends home from a party.

Hal had nominated himself as the designated driver for the evening.  While his buddies pounded down multiple beers, Hal conservatively limited himself to “a couple” of beers all night.

When the night was over, Hal piled his drunken buddies into his car and headed home.  It was a Friday night, prime-time for police patrols looking out for impaired drivers.  Hal was stopped when his vehicle crossed over a double yellow line while he was playing with his cell phone.  The police, upon detecting an odor of alcohol, asked Hal to step out of his vehicle for DWI field sobriety tests.  Hal, feeling confident that he was well below the legal blood alcohol percentage limit, complied appropriately with the officers and blew a 0.10% blood alcohol content.  The officers promptly arrested Hal for DWI and under-aged drinking.

Unbeknownst to Hal, the DWI blood alcohol percentage threshold for a driver under age 21 is 0.02%.

Compounding the stress at their son’s arrest was Hal’s parents’ concern about how the DWI arrest would affect his record, as Hal was attending college on a football scholarship.  As a parent and a former collegiate athlete myself, I completely empathized with their situation.

Hal’s remorse was immeasurable:  he was a good kid who made a bad decision, and he was heartbroken for his parents, and himself.

The good news?  Although Hal lost his license for 6 months, we were able to achieve a resolution that reduced Hal’s violation to a civil sanction resulting in the sealing of his record.  To say that Hal and his parents were relieved is an understatement.

When I closed Hal’s file out, I wanted to remind him of how lucky he was that he didn’t kill himself or someone else; as well as reinforce the importance of making responsible decisions.  I gave Hal $50 on condition that he keep it in his wallet and agree to only use it for his first cab ride home after a night when he consumed alcohol.

As of this writing, Hal is enjoying a successful college football career, and has never had another DWI incident.

Keep a $50 bill in your wallet or purse, and call a cab instead of getting behind the wheel of a car if you have had anything to drink.  With that $50 and a cab ride, you are guaranteed to avoid the heartache and expense of DWI, and get home safely.

George E. LaMarche III, Esq.