Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a common problem in the United States. But despite the criminal nature of this offense, it seems unlikely that the average high school senior would divulge details of their experiences driving while intoxicated with a criminal defense attorney, especially without the protection of attorney-client privilege. However, if a drunk driving attorney in Colorado Springs has his way, that is exactly what might happen: a criminal defense lawyer is offering a $1,000 scholarship to a high school senior who writes a detailed account admitting to driving under the influence.
Driving while intoxicated is common, and studies show that teenagers are just as likely to commit this crime as adults, creating a powerful incentive for society to address this behavior early on.
Now, Christian Schwaner, a 44-year old traffic violations lawyer from Colorado, says he is offering his “First Step Scholarship” as a way to help students turn their past mistakes into an opportunity for educational gain. According to an application form posted on his firm’s website, Schwaner requires high school seniors to submit a document containing an admission to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The applicants will then be required to submit a detailed account of the offense, followed by concrete steps they will take to ensure they do not repeat this mistake in the future.
Some elements of the scholarship seem uncertain: for example, Schwaner has noted that he may require applicants to share their stories with their parents. However, the criminal defense lawyer has promised that he will keep any information shared with him over the course of the scholarship secret. Moreover, Schwaner says that his concept has been encouraged by several local officials, who called the scholarship a potentially powerful step against drunk driving.
Other drunk driving attorneys in the area, however, seem puzzled by Schwaner’s proposal. One lawyer commented that while he believed the plan had good intentions, he found it concerning that the applicants would not be covered by attorney-client privilege. He also added that there would be no consistent way to check if the accounts were legitimate.
Schwaner has set a deadline of May 1, 2015 for scholarship applications. Currently, he says he has received no applications, but several emails on how to encourage responsible drinking among teens.
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