Driving while under the influence is never acceptable. However, driving under the influence with a child is a crime that will carry a heavier sentence in many cases because you will also possibly be charged with child endangerment. Child endangerment is any action that would place a child's social, physical, or mental well-being in danger.
DWIs with a Child Lead to Harsher Penalties
When driving with a child while inebriated, you are deciding to place the child at risk of harm. The extent to where your penalty will be worse is based on the jurisdiction, whether your child was injured, the severity of the injury, how old your child was and the number of prior offenses. In many states, simply transporting someone under 14 while under the influence is grounds for additional penalties. DUIs with a child can even be classified as a felony. Even if it is not classified as a felony, it will remain on your permanent record. This can make it more difficult to secure employment, attend school, or get a house.
Drug Paraphenelia Can Lead to Harsher Sentences
Depending on the state, you may have additional charges placed on you if drug paraphernalia is found in your car. This can include hypodermic needles, a bong, or a razor used for the preparation of a drug. These tools might be used accidentally by your child. The child endangerment penalties will be on top of any charges you receive for drug possession.
Having Your Child as a Designated Driver Is Much Worse
A different, but related problem is when a parent is unable to drive and decides that his or her child can drive instead. In addition to child endangerment, this act can lead to the charge of allowing unauthorized minors to drive.
Your Child Could Die
The most horrible and serious result of driving under the influence is an accident in which your child has passed away. The potential loss of your child is the number one reason for avoiding these dangerous practices. In addition to that, driving under the influence and causing the death of your child can lead to a lengthy jail sentence. Besides legal penalties, you risk having your children taken away from you by child protective services.
If charged with a felony, in many states, simply driving with a child while intoxicated can lead to four years in prison. However, the sentencing can be reduced if you have evidence that there was contributory negligence or if you did not know that your child was in the car. Regardless, you will need the assistance of a DWI attorney if you make the mistake of driving under the influence with a minor. Talk to a professional like Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP for more information.