We all know what DWI means. And we know it is illegal and can get you into lots of trouble. But DWY can also lead to trouble even though it is not against the law.

DWY is Driving While Young. Police pay special attention to young drivers. After all, the leading cause of death for males between 16 and 25 is speeding. I’d like to see those numbers drop. The cops would, too. So I am not surprised when I see speeding tickets written for teens and college students that are not written for adults. Those are the tickets where the alleged speed is less than 10 mph over the limit. The middle aged just don’t get written up for 72 in a 65, but some kids do.
Stricter effacement of the traffic law is not the trouble I am talking about. The real trouble comes when the young man (and it usually is a male) or woman is DWY and the stop turns into an illegal & unjustified search. Over the years, I have seen this happen often. I just saw another case last week.  A 17 year old was stopped because of his muffler. Maybe it was too loud. Maybe it wasn’t. After he was stopped and saw 3 Trooper cars surround his vehicle, it was pretty clear they had things on their mind other than his muffler.

The lad was directed to exit his vehicle, and without so much as a “by your leave”, the Troopers searched his car. No warrant, no permission, and nothing to indicate that a crime had been committed and the evidence was in the car. One of those criteria is needed for an automobile search to be justified.  There is no legal nexus between a piece of defective equipment, speeding, failing to signal or a similar traffic violation & the search of a car.

The Troopers found a very small quantity of pot. The kid hadn’t been smoking in the car or before driving. He was just taking it from point A to point B. It wasn’t in plain sight. They could’t smell it. They had to look for it. They charged him with the non-criminal offense of UPM — Unlawful Possession of Marijuana and gave him a muffler ticket. A first UPM offense is punishable by only $100, but any pot conviction can cause problems, even if it is only a petty offense.
The prosecutor was a decent fellow and knew the law. He knew the search was bad. Young drivers being searched without cause is not, in my experience, a deviation from the norm. It is standard operating procedure for some cops and some departments.

If you are in your teens to mid 20s, or care about someone who is, be on notice that Driving While Young can attract the attention of the police. It is a type of profiling and often escalates to an illegal search. Know your rights. Invoke them. Do not consent to a search (who knows what your last passenger may have left behind by mistake?). Be respectful and polite to the officer and know that if he or she is going to ignore your invocation of rights, you can’t physically stop them from searching. See my post of 12/1/13 on this page for more information about illegal searches.
Carry my card in your wallet. An invocation of your rights is printed on the back. I just had a client use my card to stop a vehicle search. Send me a message and I’ll mail you one. And drive safe. Not providing a reason for a stop can save you a good deal of trouble.

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