Nearly every state has some form of child endangerment statute. About half of the states also have DUI child endangerment laws to punish DUI & DWI offenders who transport a minor at the time of the offense. These laws either enhance the existing DUI & DWI penalties, or make it a separate offense to transport a minor while driving under the influence.
If you are caught drinking and driving, you could face a number of fines and penalties, such as a license suspension, community service, and even jail time. If you are caught drinking and driving while carrying an underage passenger, you may also face additional charges for drunk driving child endangerment.
What Is Child Endangerment?
Child endangerment is an offense or, alternatively, an added penalty given to an offense when a minor is endangered. Such laws are meant to protect children from criminal wrongdoing by a parent or guardian. Child endangerment laws make it a crime to endanger the health or life of a child through an adult's recklessness or indifference.
Any child endangerment charge is very serious because courts are unlikely to be lenient on penalties in cases where a judge may think a minor child might continue to be at risk or subject to neglect. These criminal charges can result in loss of parental custodial rights.
What Are the Penalties for DUI with a Minor?
Half of all states have enacted laws that are related to child endangerment while driving impaired due to the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The penalties imposed by these statutes vary depending on the:
- Jurisdiction where the incident took place
- Age of the minor passenger
- Age of the driver
- Severity of the passenger's injury
- Number of similar prior offenses the person has committed
Penalties in conjunction with any other DUI penalties can include one or a combination of the following:
- Jail time
- Community Service and probation
- Fines ranging from $500-$10,000
- Suspension or revocation of license
What Is the Penalty for Drunk Driving with a Minor as Passenger?
The penalties imposed on a DUI offender who is transporting a minor at the time of the offense varies from state to state. A few examples include:
- If minor passenger is under 14 years old, California enhances existing DUI penalties by 48 hours in jail for a first offense up to 90 days in jail for multiple offenses
- DUI offender with a passenger who is a minor may also be convicted of child endangerment, a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or in the state prison up to six years
- If minor passenger is under 18 years old, Florida enhances existing DUI penalties by imposing sanctions of up to $2,000 and 9 months in jail for a first offense, and up to $4,000 and a year in jail for multiple offenses
- If minor passenger is under 16 years old, Illinois enhances the existing DUI penalties and imposes a mandatory jail sentence ranging from 2 days to 6 months for a first offense, and 90 days to 3 years for multiple offenses
- The defendant must also perform at least 140 hours of community service
- New York
- If minor passenger is 16 years old, the DUI offender faces automatic licenses suspension pending prosecution, and is subject to New York's Child Endangering Law - the offense is a Class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year imprisonment. If a child is under 16, the driver faces a Class B felony, punishable by 25 years in prison.
- If minor passenger is under 15 years old, the DWI offender may be charged with a separate offense of Driving While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger
- If convicted, the offense is a state jail felony punishable by at least 180 days confinement in a state jail, and up to $10,000 in fines.
It is worth noting that these penalties apply to non-injury DUI offenses only. If anyone is injured, offenses will be more serious.
What Can You Do If You Are Arrested for Drunk Driving with a Minor?
If you are arrested for drunk driving with a minor in the car, you should speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately. An attorney can inform you as to your rights, your defenses, and what to expect while going through this process. Additionally, a lawyer can help you contest your license suspension.