By now, a 17-year-old from Centreville, in western Fairfax County, must know that Virginia State Police troopers look with more than a little disfavor on people who steal one of their cruisers, drive it off and smash it against a roadside guard rail.

The youth in question, accused of doing just that, is in a Northern Virginia juvenile detention facility, awaiting a hearing in Fauquier County Juvenile Court on charges of drunken driving, obstruction of justice by breaking arrest, grand larceny and reckless driving.

The odyssey began Friday night, according to state police Sgt. M.G. Millner, when Trooper D.A. Zeets arrested the youth after he wrecked his own car on U.S. 50 at the Fauquier-Loudoun County line near Middleburg.

After charging the youth with drunken driving, Zeets drove him to Middleburg, where he had arranged by telephone to be picked up by his parents.

After the parents arrived and Zeets was talking to them, Millner said, the youth slid beneath the wheel of the cruiser and drove off eight miles to the west, where he crashed into the guard rail at the intersection of U.S. 50 and Virginia Rte. 828. The youth was not seriously injured, but an estimated $400 damage was done to the car. He fled on foot and could not be found by a search party, but was brought in by his parents on Saturday.

Zeets had "no reason to believe" the youth would steal the cruiser, Millner said. "He'd been very cooperative up to that point. He apparently panicked when he saw his parents."