I am often asked by parents whether they need to hire a lawyer for their teenager who has a traffic charge. My response is that it depends. Typically Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (J&DR) Judges will allow a new driver to avoid a conviction on a first traffic offense charge by completing a driver improvement program (DIP). Since there is no conviction it should not cause an increase in insurance premiums unless there was some reported damage. The minor is normally put on probation and the charge is dismissed later on if there are no further problems. You normally would not need a lawyer for that.
Reckless driving and DUI charges are more serious and parents may want to hire a lawyer for their child. These types of offenses are actually considered criminal in nature rather than traffic infractions such as speeding. An adult charged with a DUI or reckless driving faces a range of punishment of up to twelve months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. The Judge can and sometimes must also suspend the driver’s operator’s license. Some DUIs are actually felony charges carrying up to five years in prison.
I normally recommend that any minor charged with what would be a felony if committed by an adult should not go to trial without a lawyer. You should also consider legal counsel for serious misdemeanor charges and for repeat offenders as well. If you intend to contest the evidence you should always consider hiring a lawyer.