A capstone of the high school experience, prom was designed to create fond memories your child can enjoy for a lifetime. Unfortunately, this good-time tradition often ends up putting added pressure on your teen to create memories he or she thinks should be a part of that tradition instead.
Which can be dangerous.
Take one Ohio teen who just last Spring was speeding to prom with three classmates. She lost control and hit a telephone pole head-on while correcting her course. Her lifelong memories will be of a friend dying and having to face counts of vehicular assault and aggravated vehicular homicide with a juvenile defense attorney by her side.
Unfortunately, reckless driving is just one common juvenile crime showing an uptick on prom night. Let’s take a look at a few others.
Many teens see drinking as the easiest way to have a good time. Combine this with the “rite of passage” that prom represents and it is no wonder that “spiking the punch” is a common choice to get the party started. But the fact of the matter is that alcohol possession and consumption are still illegal for anyone under 21.
Getting caught, even for the first time, can result in hefty fines, license suspension, and jail time. Additionally, at the court’s discretion, consequences can include community service, education and treatment programs, or penalty surcharges.
Further, the Ohio story punctuates reports from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that a third of all teen traffic deaths involving alcohol occur during prom season. These grave statistics are part of the reason Colorado maintains a “zero tolerance” law for underage motorists.
Legal consequences match those of underage drinking out from behind the wheel, but any time a vehicle is involved, your child’s, their passengers’, and other motorists’ risk increases exponentially.
Although societal perspective is shifting, one cliché about prom night is that you and your date will be having sex. Due to a whole host of possible factors on prom night – peer pressure, underage drinking, or pressure to make a memorable experience – it’s not uncommon for teens to make decisions they later question or regret.
When things are taken too far, there’s a risk your teen could either wind up in a vulnerable position or, on the flip side, face sexual assault or rape charges.
Even seemingly victimless crimes like defacing or destroying property can land your teen in a heap of trouble. Depending on property values, fines are $750-$5,000, and jail-time can reach 18 months.
Aside from those relatively finite consequences, just one criminal mischief charge in Colorado can spider its way into nearly every aspect of your child’s future – from employment to college admissions to housing opportunities and personal freedoms.
Help your kids have a safe and happy prom.
Talking to them now about the risks of becoming involved in these activities and come up with a plan together that gives them a safe way out. You probably have far more influence that you think, and you just can’t be sure which will be the experiences that end up shaping your children’s lives.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.