When a driver is intoxicated and driving with kids in the car, he/she may be arrested and charged with aggravated DUI as well as child endangerment. Both crimes may be charged as felony offenses with harsh penalties, including jail time.
Driving Drunk with the Kids
In every state, drunk driving is illegal and carries steep penalties. Drunk driving with children in the car carries even harsher penalties because it is considered an aggravating circumstance which increases the guilt and severity of a criminal act. Under certain circumstances, drunk driving is a misdemeanor, but when there are kids in the car it becomes a felony with an element of violence due to reckless behavior or child endangerment. If the kids are injured, the driver faces fines of $10,000 and/or up to five years in prison on a child endangerment conviction alone.
Endangerment charges are often added to DUI violations when a minor is present in the vehicle with or without any injury to any person. Some states have increased penalties or attach additional crimes to DUI offenses when any child under the age of 18 is present in the car with an intoxicated driver. The mere presence of the child is all that is needed for aggravated circumstances, which elevates a misdemeanor DUI violation to a felony charge. If the drunk driver is the parent of the child, he/she may lose custody of the child. If the driver is the sole parent, the child, as well as other children in the household, may be placed in a foster home until the matter is cleared up.
If a driver has more than one DUI conviction, he/she will incur additional penalties with each subsequent offense. In Minnesota, DWI or DUI charges can have serious consequences that include costly fines, jail time, higher insurance rates, and a driver’s license revocation that can permanently remain on a driving record, even if a driver is not found guilty of the charges.
1st Offense – $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail (BAC under .20); $3,000 fine and/or one year in jail (BAC .20 or higher); up to one year in jail and loss of driving privileges for 90 days (BAC higher than .16 or a child is present in the car); forfeiture of vehicle.
2nd Offense – If the second conviction occurs within 10 years of a previous offense, there is a maximum fine of $3,000; a mandatory minimum one-year driver’s license revocation (two years with BAC of .16 or more); and a 30-day mandatory minimum jail term. A second DUI offense is considered a gross misdemeanor that can result in forfeiture of the vehicle.
3rd Offense – If the third conviction occurs with 10 years of a previous offense, there is a maximum fine of $3,000; a mandatory minimum two-year driver’s license revocation; a 90-day mandatory minimum jail term; and forfeiture of the vehicle.
4th Offense – If the fourth conviction occurs within 10 years of three other convictions, the DUI is charged as a felony offense which carries fines of up to $14,000; a mandatory jail term of 180 days; possibility of a seven-year prison term; and forfeiture of the vehicle.
In Minnesota, neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse of a child are crimes. These offenses fall under child endangerment laws. Child endangerment issues often involve both criminal law and family law. While the criminal side of the matter may involve an investigation and/or charges against a parent or legal guardian, the family law side of the matter may involve an order for protection, a child custody order, and/or a child support order.
Under Minnesota law, statutes allow parents, legal guardians, and caretakers to be charged with child endangerment if any of the following circumstances occur:
- Intentionally or recklessly placing a child in a situation that is likely to cause physical, mental, or emotional harm, or cause the death of the child.
- Knowingly allowing a child to be present where any person is manufacturing, selling, or possessing drugs, or has intent to manufacture, possess, or sell a controlled substance.
- Intentionally or recklessly placing a child under 16 years of age in a situation that is likely to cause physical harm and/or death to the child as a result of the child’s access to a loaded firearm.
In most cases, these offenses are classified as gross misdemeanors punishable by fines up to $3,000 and/or one year in jail. If a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker is convicted of a DUI offense while driving with a child in the car, aggravated circumstances will apply. The person will be charged with a felony offense instead of a gross misdemeanor, resulting in punishments of fines up to $10,000 and/or up to five years in prison.