MAY 26, 1997

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Opinion

Legal consequences may deter teenage drinking and driving

drinking & driving We are approaching that time of year that brings great joy and excitement to our high school students and a considerable amount of trepidation to those of us who care about their safety. I am speaking of end-of-the-school-year parties and graduation parties that involve teens and alcohol. This is a predictable problem that has plagued police, parents, and schools for the 25 years I have been a police officer. I want to work with parents and schools to avoid a tragedy this year.
   I am very pleased to be able to work together with Inglemoor High School Principal Vicki Sherwood to take strong action to prevent as many of these illegal and dangerous gatherings as we possibly can. In the next few weeks, officers and detectives from the King County Police North Precinct will be forming a special emphasis team specifically to enforce under-age drinking laws.
   Our action plan is to arrest and take into custody every under-age minor that we have probable cause to believe is consuming or possessing alcohol or other illegal substances. These minors will be transported to the Inglemoor High School gymnasium via the police jail bus, then fingerprinted and photographed. We will contact parents and release their child to them in lieu of a booking at the King County Youth Detention Center in Seattle.
   MInors convicted of possessing alcohol face penalties of up to 90 days incarceration, a $1,000 fine, and loss of license until the age of 18. Those convicted of drinking and driving face additional penalties of up to one year in jail, a $5,000 fine, and suspension of driving privileges. Additionally, you should contact your insurance broker and determine if you can even obtain car insurance for a teen with an alcohol offense on their record. If you can, the cost will likely be prohibitive.
   My goal is to give as much prior notice as possible to deter students who may be considering attending such a gathering. Young people have an innate sense of invincibility from injury due to drinking and driving. It is my hope that the likely consequence of arrest, trial, and loss of driving privileges may seem more real and immediate.
   Please join the King County Police Department and Inglemoor High School in our efforts to ensure a safe spring and summer for your teenage children. Talk to your child about this Special Emphasis Patrol and the risks of drinking and driving.
   If you or your son or daughter hear of a juvenile drinking party, please contact Inglemoor High School (489-6500) or the King County Police (296-3311). If you have questions about this special emphasis, please contact Sgt. Clement Rusk or Major Sue Rahr of the North Precinct (296-5020).

David Reichert, Sheriff-Director