When You Discover Your Au Pair was Driving Under the Influence

by cv harquail on February 11, 2017

Readers, I can’t really preface this one with anything but a request for some wisdom —

Dear Au Pair Mom —

We have just had an au pair debacle that we are trying to sort through and I was wondering if anyone has any advice.
27594932362_0daa769e36_mOur au pair asked to use our car to go to a nearby town with a friend for dinner. Since she’s covered on our insurance and takes the car from time to time we said sure. She’s 24, had a great relationship with the kids and seemed responsible. I felt like she was a great addition to our family.

The night she drove our car we went to bed assuming that everything was fine and received no calls or messages that night. The next day at 11:00am my husband and son went on an adventure to Costco to get a churro while I stayed home with our baby. Five minutes later my son came back inside our house crying and I hear my husband calling our au pair to please come downstairs because our car is missing.

Our au pair came downstairs with a post-it indicating where our car has been taken to impound and informs us she was pulled over for going 40mph in a 25mph and presents a speeding ticket. She came home with no car and did not tell us. She informs us the officer could not understand her so she was taken to the police station. Her English is pretty good and it didn’t make sense to me that they would impound our car for this reason. I asked her if she had been drinking alcohol and she says she was not drunk and had 2 beers in a 5 hour period.

My husband proceeds to go to the police station and impound lot with our au pair. After talking to the tow truck driver and police officers, he established the following:

She picked up two friends and went to a bar to drink. She and both friends decided to go to another bar where they ordered pitchers of beer and drank more before she got in our vehicle to drive them home. She was pulled over by the police and received 8 separate tickets for a DUI:

-she was speeding in a school zone
-she failed to yield
-she failed to present her insurance and registration in the glove box of our car
-she was cited for reckless driving
-she did not pull over for a police officer
-she drove erratically in a construction area
-she failed a field sobriety test
-she failed a breathalyzer test several hours later and was over the legal limit at the time of release
-there was a small dent in our car and tree branches hanging on the front of the vehicle

The police officer explained that he could not give us his notes for court but there is no chance our au pair had a misunderstanding about what happened.

I questioned her upon returning and she gave me several changing stories but failed to tell the truth.
As a result of such poor judgement and lying we had to rematch. I know it was the right decision but felt very sad.

Then things got tricky.

Our agency cannot send her home until after court. She cannot however work in the meantime.

After this happened, she had planned to travel so she delayed her court date for a couple of weeks to go to New York City and Disney World (happiest place on earth) for vacation. She’s now staying with an agency coordinator who called us asking for our insurance and registration information to help her out. The coordinator is trying to get her a lawyer and help her.

I feel awful globally that she lied and made such poor decisions.

Also, I’m told that a crime like this usually doesn’t revoke a J-1 visa — because it’s commonly not considered something called “a crime of moral turpitude”.

Does anyone know if after court the agency will send her home or do you think she will rematch to another family?

While I realize everyone makes mistakes I’m conflicted about the idea. If she gets community service will she stick around locally maybe? It’s very awkward.

Do you think we should send the insurance and registration information to help her out? (She was fully covered but I’m questioning whether paying a ticket for not showing registration because she was drunk is worth it if our insurance premiums skyrocket. I’m not sure if she would pay her fines or if it’s a great idea at this point to give her access to our personal information.)

At this point I’m not sure if we should have any more involvement in this process.

I am not sure what is typical in these instances… unfortunately I know other people have had Au Pair DWI experience. Any advice?

Sad host Mom

{ 36 comments }

Anonymous in CA February 11, 2017 at 6:10 pm

OP this sounds just awful and I’m so sorry. It’s the host parents’ nightmare (well, maybe the nightmare would be if the children were in the car…but it’s pretty awful).

My two cents about whether to send proof of insurance and registration, etc….I think you need to understand the consequences, if any, of not sending them and of sending them. While I’m sure you don’t want to incur any additional costs, it may be useful to consult with an attorney to make sure that your rights are protected and so that your insurance does not go through the roof. I assume you’ve taken her off your insurance now, but I don’t know whether you’d still incur a rate hike – you might (or it might be more expensive for you in the future to insure an au pair on your car, which would really be awful if you require a driver). It might be that you will be required to provide evidence that she was insured on the vehicle she was driving and that it is properly registered, but you should understand what the possible outcomes will be of doing so.

As to whether the agency could send her to another family….that might depend on whether the DUI charges stick…wouldn’t that be the kind of offense that would undermine the J1? If not, I would think the agency should prohibit her from driving in the US and only go to a family that does not permit the au pair to drive their car.

I sincerely hope it turns out ok for you.

Sad Host Mom February 11, 2017 at 7:39 pm

Apparently a crime like this could impede exit and re-entry with a J-1 visa however it isn’t commonly considered a “crime of moral terpitude” so chances are she will not have the state department send her home. Our agency (and all agencies I think) make the Au pair sign a moral clause specifically stating that you won’t do something like this however I’m unsure how often they are enforced. In this particular instance our Au pair made us feel just awful because she did not want to get the agency involved at all and that just wasn’t an option for us. Our agency is required to report this so they are aware her employment could be compromised. Technically she could also keep trying to delay her case if she wanted to however she’s legally unable to work in the meantime. I’m guessing her license will be taken away because of the extent of the DWI and the fact that it happened in a school zone. i feel like we should be limited in our involvement in this because while I don’t want to see anything awful happen to her, she did break the law, seek illegal employment and is dishonest. I’m not sure she would have our best interests at heart anymore with any information/help she receives.

Bitka February 12, 2017 at 9:11 am

Take the responsibility and give your datas of insurance. As and au pair she is required to pay 500 to you and tickets. You had the trust and let her using a car,additionaly she was on your insurance. Use this insurance.Do the remath.

Sad host mom February 12, 2017 at 10:21 am

Just for your information… in a situation like this the au pair pays nothing. The agency requires you to take it up with the au pair. In our case she is not paying $500 and also not paying us $250 for a class we paid for that she was able to receive a refund for but refused to do so. To get money from her for these things the host Family would need to take her to court which is costly and time consuming. In the meantime she does not have the funds to pay and may not work legally. She also may no longer in the country to pay so chances are she will not pay us anything… even though she’s supppsed to

Bitka February 12, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Which agency do You use? Do what do You mean by ‘she is covered on our insurance’? Does she have state driving licence?

Sad Host Mom February 12, 2017 at 2:10 pm

What is meant by she is covered under our insurance is that we pay money to protect her on the road for reasonable incidents like getting into an accident or things that may happen as a result of being a driver. A deductible is the amount of money you will pay for the damage before insurance pays. Drunk driving is never insured because it is a crime. The insurance company will no longer insure you and also threatened to cancel us. We pay a monthly fee for her to be a typical driver not to make awful life decisions that endanger the lives of others. The insurance company will charge a higher rate to people who are a bigger risk. To have someone drive drunk on our insurance is bad for us.

SeattleHD February 12, 2017 at 11:50 am

This bothers me…

“After this happened, she had planned to travel so she delayed her court date for a couple of weeks to go to New York City and Disney World (happiest place on earth) for vacation.”

And really, what is the agency transition document going to say? “She had some driving issues”? Because if it says “Drunk driving” there isn’t a family in the world that will pick her up. Honesty with transition documents is an issue we’ve had a couple of times.

As for the legalities of providing registration and insurance details, that can vary by state, but I’m surprised she didn’t have to produce them eventually anyway. What did the police say about that when you recovered the vehicle?

Horrible mess, but she should be headed home…

Sad Host Mom February 12, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Yeah I was wondering if there would be creativity in the way of transition documents because the wording on them is typically not forthcoming. If she were to rematch I’m not sure it would be clear what happened but I’m hopeful they would do the right thing since this is something the next family should know if there is a rematch situation

SeattleHD February 12, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Been there, done that (although in a different field than driving – dishonesty, lying, breaking terms of visa) and been gravely disappointed by the agency’s willingness to just pass a lousy au pair along.

Jennc February 12, 2017 at 7:04 pm

most rematch information I’ve read has been pretty honest, I’m sure at times not, but the agency does usually put any major issues, it isn’t there problem to rematch girls really , I don’t think they care if they get a new family if they are bad aupairs, I think they help more those with weird circumstances, this is not one

SeattleHD February 12, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Our experience has been the opposite – whatever issues there are are sanitized down to “issues”, despite admissions of things like working under the table for other families. It’s been our experience that one particular agency will bend over backwards to keep an au pair in the country and profitable for them. And LCC experience and ability varies greatly.

HMof2 February 13, 2017 at 12:53 am

From my experience having read through many rematch reports, the level of details varies a lot but tends to skew towards the more ambiguous. It is not uncommon to read the reason as “there was issue with communication between the au pair and host family” which is as vague as you can get. Sometimes, I wonder if some host families are reluctant to “go on the record” with details about the rematch situation and use vague terms (to provide subtle signals) and prefer to elaborate more (verbally – not in writing) if a future host family chooses to call them OR does the agency really sanitizes what the host family wrote or said.

I have provide our (host family) version of the rematch situation to the agency but have never seen the “final” version that the agency published for future host families to see – nor have the agency ever shared this back with us – so it has not been possible for me to see if the agency does or does not sanitize.

njHostMom February 12, 2017 at 12:11 pm

hi there, so sorry for your situation. I have been told in the past that Cultural Care will not rematch after a DUI but I suppose some agencies might. Some aupair jobs in cities for example might not require driving at all. That said, even if the agency permits it, any family that is doing the legitimate thing and putting her on the insurance will not be happy at the premium she will incur. In practice, her driving days in the USA are likely over.

Thankfully she is no longer living with you.

You may very well be legally obligated to provide your insurance information. When our aupairs have had accidents, we never incurred a premium change on that basis. After all, that individual is gone from your household. If they do try to charge more, maybe comparison shop another couple of agencies, then either switch or go back to this agency with lower offers in hand?

Horrible for you to have your trust violated in that way. Cannot believe she was permitted to delay her court date for vacation!

Sad Host Mom February 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Thanks, it’s being suggested she could do something with our insurance and registration information… in not really sure how that works. I would provide it to the court no questions asked and was going to but it gave me pause when someone said, “she’s using photos of the kids to seek illegal employment do you think if she stays illegally she will disclose what happened and would you want her to have access to your personal information”. Is using insurance and registration information a thing? I guess I’m also unsure if she could take the information we provide and try to drive with it somewhere else or make problems for us since I can no longer trust her”. I think she listed my husband as a witness also. He called the court and they said he didn’t need to be present but it’s all such a mess in general.

njHostMom February 12, 2017 at 2:14 pm

That doesn’t seem right (in a moral/ethical way, whether that’s their plan I wouldn’t know). I don’t know insurance law, but she is gone! It isn’t as though this was a family member.

njHostMom February 12, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Sorry, re reading your original post. You may have legal obligations in your state but I don’t think that would include fines she has incurred. Is your agency advising you? Agree that the less information she has to try something else like opening a credit card in your name the better.

To me her not asking for money she could have gotten back to return to you, is s huge red flag

Sad Host Mom February 12, 2017 at 2:45 pm

The Agency LCC from a town two hours away has been assigned her since returning from vacation. I think she will stay with friends also near us in our town. The LCC is helping her to try to reduce tickets, fines and get her a lawyer so at the very least the agency is concerned about her general wellbeing. This has been such a stressful ordeal and I would love to trust that everyone would do the right thing and give the benefit of the doubt but that hasn’t happened. In her postings for nanny jobs she’s saying she spent a year in our house and is a college student with pictures of our baby… if she can benefit financially from us with her class (that was elegance for a refund but only to her) or anything else… I think she would take advantage.

Sad Host Mom February 12, 2017 at 3:58 pm

*the class was elegible for a refund

Should be working February 12, 2017 at 7:19 pm

How can she be posting for nanny jobs? I would be surprised that the LCC or the agency in any way would try to help her if they knew she was actively searching out a position for which her visa is not valid.

This sounds like a horrible, drawn-out end to your relationship with the AP. I would perhaps wait for a request from a lawyer for the insurance and registration info. You aren’t obligated to give it to the LCC, but a lawyer might feel more legit.

Frankfurt AP Boy February 12, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Maybe you could contact her arrest officer and tell them that she is committing fraud on top of the other offenses she has already been charged with.

2 kids and a cat February 12, 2017 at 5:51 pm

If not provided at the time of the incident, proof of insurance and registration do need to be furnished or she will incur more tickets/fines. I would not, however, give them to the LCC. Have the police contact you or whoever is her legal counsel, and tell the LCC that you want to communicate with someone higher up in the agency (honestly, go at least two ranks higher. Most agency employees don’t deal with this kind of stuff so are just kind of making it up as they go along.)
This seems like a lot of tickets for a standard DUI (which is certainly egregious enough) which suggests racial/immigration profiling, or that she wasn’t initially compliant when pulled over. Regardless, what a mess for you.

Something Clever February 15, 2017 at 11:29 am

I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell the race, ethnicity or immigration status of someone driving in front of me at night. Seems strange to jump to racial profiling.

SeattleHD February 15, 2017 at 11:56 am

…and the one thing a cop can and will do after pulling someone over and before approaching the car is run the plates. And the plates will come up with the host family details, not the au pair’s. They’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect by the time they get to the point of talking to the driver

Anonymous in CA February 15, 2017 at 1:44 pm

I am going to guess she wasn’t initially compliant – she didn’t pull over initially, there were tree branches and a small dent on the car, and she still failed the breathalyzer test several hours later, after being at the police station.

She may have been in a black out. That doesn’t alleviate any responsibility, but might explain her failure to say exactly what happened. I also don’t think people around someone who is in a black out would know the person is in a black out, so the officer saying that there’s no way the AP didn’t understand what was going on, that might be totally true, but the AP may simply not remember.

From https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm

“Large amounts of alcohol, particularly if consumed rapidly, can produce partial (i.e., fragmentary) or complete (i.e., en bloc) blackouts, which are periods of memory loss for events that transpired while a person was drinking. Blackouts are much more common among social drinkers—including college drinkers—than was previously assumed…”

SeattleHD February 12, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Did you see the “fail to pull over” line?

That’ll get the book thrown at you.

Sad Host Mom February 13, 2017 at 1:16 am

Official response to the question “why didn’t you pull over for the police? Didn’t you see them trying to pull you over?”

“I didn’t think they wanted me to pull over because I wasn’t doing anything to get them to pull me over so I kept driving”

Jennc February 12, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Yes I would send insurance information because she was an insured driver, however, the rest is not your problem I cannot imagine another family would take her in rematch, even great Aupairs go home with minor crap . It also shows bad judgement to move court date so she can vacation. If she had killed anyone you would have been held financially responsible because it was your car , thank god that didn’t happen. She should go home I’m not sure what court will do with her. Her visa should be revoked

Sad Host Mom February 15, 2017 at 11:42 am

Apparently selling insurance and registration information to people is a real thing when people can’t get insured the old fashioned way… did you know this? Someone was explaining it to me as a reason not to send it and it made me nervous. This is crazy right?

Taking a Computer Lunch February 12, 2017 at 9:38 pm

My two cents – hire a lawyer. Do what the lawyer advises. You gave her permission to use your vehicle, and during that time she committed a felony, not a misdemeanor. Protect yourselves by hiring a lawyer and follow his or her instructions about how much information you release to her court-appointed lawyer. Don’t release information about your vehicle without legal advice!

You are correct, you are not going to get a penny from her. However, it is possible to write a statement of rematch and to make it clear to your agency that if they change the wording that is presented to potential host families why you went into rematch that you will seek to collect what you lost from her from them, they might just tell her “Go home.” This isn’t, “I made a mistake.” This is “I completely abused my host family’s trust in me by committing a felony with their vehicle and I am very fortunate that no one was hurt.”

For au pairs reading this Blog. If you drive your HF car, then you officially become the “designated driver” when you go out to bars and clubs with friends. Almost every establishment in America will give you free Coca Cola (or the soda or non-alcoholic beverage of your choice) because they want to promote safe driving. Tell the bartender, waiter or waitress, “I am the designated driver.” You will keep yourself and your friends safe (or safer) and earn your HF’s confidence in you. I had one AP who did this – never spent a dime when she went out – and saved enough to spent a week in Hawaii during her travel month. HF – encourage your APs, when they go to bars & clubs to state this. Most people seem unaware that bars & clubs give free non-alcoholic drinks to people who don’t want to drink & drive.

Sad Host Mom February 13, 2017 at 12:27 am

I was debating if we needed a lawyer. We had talked about using good judgement and appropriate use of a vehicle, American laws etc, in this process I looked up laws in Brazil since she is Brazilian to see if the laws are more relaxed and she didn’t realize but they have a 0 alcohol and driving policy. Unfortunately I feel like the next person we will need documents in writing stating that they are aware that if they consume a single sip of alcohol and operate a vehicle even if they are under the legal limit we would request a rematch immediately,,,

I would absolutely write a statement if rematch which is an excellent idea. This is really expensive and in general I understand there are some costs that don’t get reimbursed but this is out of the scope of expectations and there’s just no way this should come and go with her ended up at a new family without explicit detail for the reason of rematch, this isn’t a “rematch over Au pair using a car in ways that make host family uncomfortable” transition document. I’ve found that some awful stuff gets glossed over in transition documents,

NJ Mom February 13, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Thank goodness AP was pulled over before she hurt anyone! Her judgement was clearly severely impaired (obvious to everyone except herself). And unbelievable that she’s making so light of her actions.

I agree that getting a lawyer would be prudent – and follow the lawyer’s advice on the registration, insurance, etc. My guess is that the agency coordinator wants the information to try to drop the ticket regarding not showing registration and insurance. I don’t think you *need* a lawyer for this specific instance. However I do think you need a lawyer to protect your family from anything else that may come out of this process. I wouldn’t trust the former AP to not throw you under the bus if she could benefit from it. From your narrative and responses, it sounds like AP has no qualms lying about very obvious things or taking advantage as much as she possibly can.

We too have a “no drinking and driving” rule written into our handbook. We also cover it verbally in the beginning of the year. We give several alternatives such as taking turns being a designated driver, taking a cab/uber, calling us for a ride if something happens (the dd is drunk), etc. We ask the AP to think about and decide on an option beforehand since spur of the moment decisions while the AP is drunk is a crap shoot. I also explain verbally that the rules are not there to impede on the AP having a good time, but because the consequences could be quite severe for our family. I also acknowledge that other families may have different rules, however AP has to follow our car rules in order to have use of our car.

Anonymous in CA February 12, 2017 at 11:08 pm

I think this is a good reminder for all of us to always ask to speak with the former host family in the case of interviewing an au pair in transition or extending for a second year. And then to ask very explicit question about whether there were safety concerns, illicit behavior, abuse of trust, etc. That won’t weed out all “meh” au pairs, but it will weed out the ones who are dishonest and irresponsible (hopefully).

On the topic of the AP looking for nanny jobs…I’ve been recently toying with the idea of not hosting again and hiring a regular sitter….there are a few I’ve seen on Care.com and Urbansitter.com who are clearly au pairs – that’s something I’d suss out anyway because I’m one of those people who does withhold taxes on household employees, but it was a little bit of a wake up call to me on just how little I should trust the profiles I read on the care.com and urbansitter.com sites (and other similar sites).

Sad Host Mom February 13, 2017 at 12:19 am

It was cross posted in every section of their website for childcare. Care.com didn’t check and neither did Sittercity.com however potential employers can run background checks. I will say that sittercity was amazing with their response and totally did the right thing, right away and asked if they could help with anything else, Care.com was slow and adequate but barely.

WestMom February 13, 2017 at 1:37 pm

I know of only one AP in my area who was charged with DUI. She stayed around for her court date and she was sent home. This was with APIA. I was told with InterExchange that DUI was instantaneous dismissal and you are sent back to your home country in a jiffy.

If your agency sends this AP to rematch, yes it would be wise to write a rematch statement, but good grief, I certainly hope that you will give us the name of the agency and that we will all agree, in solidarity, to boycott them. How outrageous would that be to keep such a person in the program! And you have enough ammo to get ALL of your money back from the agency, not only a credit, and not only a pathetic 60 or 70%. Fight for it. It’s ridiculous.

AnvVA February 14, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Wow, I’m really sad you’re going through this. Like someone said before is not a nightmare, it just comes with the deal. When we decide to host an aupair we know this type if thing can happen, but of course we really hope not to happen to us.
The visa may not be removed, but she is definitely not getting a rematch from the agency. There isn’t a single agency that will allow her to rematch after a DUI. And she can’t stay and work without and agency, as they inform to the Department of State and they annul the DS form so her status is illegal. She may of course stay illegal if she wants it so badly.
I just wish you the best and hope you can solve it without any more headaches.

HMAdvice February 15, 2017 at 10:21 am

I am so sorry that you have to deal with this. I agree with the other posts that ultimately this would be a question for a lawyer. I think there are some good points on here on liability so it might be wise to pursue that route. If this is just a matter of an insurance hike, I would probably give my insurance but if it is that you are legally liable for letting her use the car, I would talk to a lawyer. I hate hearing stories like this. A common complaint for AP’s is around car use and too many restrictions about where they are going (like the post on here a few weeks ago) but this is EXACTLY why HFs are strict. This is a good example of how one poor choice by one AP can affect the situations of other APs in other families. I realize that isn’t always “fair” but that is kind of the price of a bad choice. A cab or uber allowance is something that an AP might want to consider talking to their HF about as an alternative.

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