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Underage Drinking Challenges For Court System

Experts indicate that minors are difficult for the criminal justice system because studies show they're more likely to drink harder and faster, and they're more likely to re-offend. The older teenager, just under 21, is more prone to binge drinking than older adults, often at high school parties and college frat houses.

'harder and faster'- One state's research showed that drivers under 21 cause 12 percent of all alcohol-related fatalities, even though they only make up about 6 percent of the total drivers.

re-offend' - Some young offenders pick up a second offense within a few months of their first one. According to news analysis of about 5,700 alcohol-related offenders in municipal court in Dallas, from 2004 to 2009, about 9 percent have already re-offended. Of those who got a DWI charge, between the ages of 17 and 20 from 1999 to 2009, about 30 percent have already committed another crime.

While treatment is a potential option, as a condition of probation, some teenagers choose straight jail time to avoid probation and treatment. The truth is, I want all my clients to get treatment, go through counseling, and get the help and direction they need. However, sometimes probation simply isn't the best option for some people, especially in Johnson County, Kansas. Probation here is stricter than other jurisdictions. While this can be a great thing for some people and for enforcement, for many, it is too costly and time consuming. But then again, if the treatment is really effective, it's "priceless."

And the other reason some people simply opt for jail time is because they know they can't stay out of trouble, stay sober, or pay the fines. If they were to opt for probation, the underlying jail time is usually larger. Whereas if they simply opt for jail time, with no probation, the jail time is usually shorter. If you know you are going to fail probation, why even start?

The challenge is to entice the underage offender to partake in treatment, without so much risk of having to do extra jail time if they fail. But then again, there is no fear if the court only has a bark, with no bite.