DennisBeaverMarch 14, 2015 • By Dennis Beaver

Today’s story will be of special interest to families where mom and dad are financially successful and in a world where parents give their children all the “right” things that money can buy, including designer clothing, attending a private high school, followed by private university, and, of course, while there, a car, an expensive car — even if one is not needed.

No matter how simple and practical parents would like to be, for some, the downside of monetary success is an odd pressure, a need to belong, to be accepted, to show others, “Just like you, we’ve made it and give our kids all the things we never had growing up.”

And so, for “Tyler,” raised on a steady diet of nice things, after graduation from college, living at home, no job, “thinking about going back to school for an advanced business degree,” driving his birthday present — a new Audi SUV — with a pocket-full of mom’s and dad’s money, life was good, life was fun — until it wasn’t — a recent Saturday at 2 a.m.

Our son phoned us from jail

“Mr. Beaver, my wife and I have read your column for over 20 years in the Hanford Sentinel, and never thought that one day we would be asking for your advice, but that day came last Saturday, when our 24 year-old son, Tyler, called from the county jail.”

“He had been booked for DUI after being in a single-vehicle, roll-over accident. There were no other passengers in the new Audi SUV we had just bought him as a birthday present a week earlier! It was a total loss, but all he got was a concussion, and otherwise, not a scratch.

“As my wife and I are well known health-care professionals in town, it would be highly embarrassing if word of this gets out. We have to be in Bakersfield for a neurological consultation of our son’s concussion, and would greatly appreciate meeting with you. We need to know what to expect, and to hear an honest evaluation of the DUI case. Thanks, Dr. Jim.”

‘You blew almost three times over the limit’

As my paralegal, Anne, and I would learn during our meeting with Tyler and his parents, he finished a late dinner at about 9:30, admitting to “having consumed two vodka cocktails prior to eating.” At midnight, he drove to a bar, meeting friends, had “two vodkas, one bourbon and left at about 1:30 AM.”

“What caused your SUV to flip?” we asked.

“There was a vehicle headed straight at me. To avoid a collision, I must have over-corrected, struck the curb, overturned and was knocked-out for some time, regaining consciousness when a CHP officer arrived.

“He asked me if I was ok, and if I would like to take a breathalyzer test, which I did and was informed that the result was almost three times the .08 limit. I was taken to the hospital, blood was drawn, and I spent the next several hours in custody.”

“Based upon what our son consumed,” his father inquired, “how could the blood alcohol level be so high? That would have required over 10 ounces of hard spirits!” There were three possible explanations:

(1) The breathalyzer was out of calibration, and gave a false reading — which was not likely.

(2) If the last drink was consumed within a few minutes of the breath test, the result could easily be influenced by residual mouth-alcohol — which was possible, but also not likely.

(3) Tyler drank far more than he remembered or wanted to admit.

Marijuana and alcohol = bad combination

“Do you think that the medical marijuana I use could partly explain the accident? I eat medical marijuana — chocolate squares containing cannabis — for neck pain,” he explained.

In fact, the combination of both substances has been found in several studies to be synergistic, that is, each potentiates the other. It’s as if more of either was consumed adversely impacting the ability to drive safely.

‘Look at mom and dad’

“The police report, witness statements and blood test are elements of your son’s DUI arrest which will tell the entire story. If his blood level is more than twice the limit — and I’m betting that it will be over that — he will almost certainly face 10 days in custody, not just work release — picking up leaves — but real time in jail if he pleads or is found guilty after a trial.

“And if that happens, in my experience, the only thing that helps people, just like your son, is that place where no one wants to go.

To Tyler, I said, “Look at mom and dad. They love you. Someone almost took you away from them. Do you know who?” I asked.

“Yeah, me,” he answered, sobbing. 

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.