A DUI is a serious enough charge on its own, but your situation could get much worse if you had a child passenger when you were pulled over.
If you’re facing a DUI, Skinner Law Firm will help you understand the charges against you and fight for the best possible outcome, whether it’s getting the charges reduced or dismissed entirely. Call (610) 436-1410 today or contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.
Pennsylvania law separates DUI offenses involving minor passengers into two categories. A first or second-offense DUI with a passenger under 18 is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor. Third and subsequent offenses are a third-degree felony.
If the passenger is under 14, the penalties can be even more severe. In most cases involving passengers under 14 (even first offenses), you would not be eligible for an ARD program which would help you avoid jail time.
According to CDC data, around 20% of traffic-related deaths among children involve an alcohol-impaired driver. Pennsylvania is already tough on drunk driving, but the dangers of driving under the influence with a minor passenger make a child endangerment DUI an even more serious offense.
The penalties for a DUI involving endangerment of a child can vary depending on whether you have prior offenses and if any aggravating factors were present.
Minor passenger sentencing enhancements most impact first-time offenders. A first-offense DUI is a first-degree misdemeanor, carrying between 2.5 and 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. In addition, first offenders with a minor occupant will face an 18-month license suspension and 100 hours of community service.
A third or subsequent DUI with a minor occupant is a third-degree felony, carrying between 3.5 and 7 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.
In addition to criminal penalties, you could face other consequences and restrictions as a result of a child endangerment DUI, such as:
Other penalties may be ordered to enhance your sentence or be used as alternatives. For example, you may have to complete community service hours or rehabilitative programs. While DUI cases involving minors over 14 are not automatically denied from ARD consideration, your attorney will have to make a compelling case to get you admitted and help you avoid jail time.
If convicted, your record could bring other collateral consequences, such as difficulty finding stable employment, housing, or pursuing higher education.
Aggravating factors could result in more severe penalties depending on what happened in your case. Some aggravating factors include:
A prosecutor must prove every element of a DUI beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. The elements of a DUI include the following:
To be convicted of a child endangerment DUI, the prosecutor must prove that the minor occupied the vehicle as a passenger and was under 18 at the time of the offense.
Even if your minor passenger wasn’t hurt, the prosecution does not need to prove injury or danger for the child passenger sentencing enhancement to apply. The presence of a minor in your vehicle at the time of your DUI arrest is enough to trigger the enhanced grading and penalties.
The best way to avoid a DUI conviction is to work with an experienced attorney who can help you build a solid defense. Several defense strategies may be available, and your lawyer can help you develop arguments such as:
One effective defense is proving that you were arrested without probable cause. This is an excellent option if you refused a breathalyzer test or were arrested before being assessed by officers.
It might also be possible to prove that your rights were violated before you were taken into custody. Perhaps you were not read your Miranda rights, or maybe you were mistreated by your arresting officer.
A knowledgeable DUI lawyer can review your situation and gather evidence to support your defense. Your attorney can also negotiate to reach a favorable outcome and keep you from facing the harshest penalties.
Being accused of a DUI can be scary, especially if a minor was present in the vehicle. However, being charged does not have to be the end of the world. If you’re arrested and charged with a child endangerment DUI, never enter a plea or answer police questions without consulting an attorney first.
With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can avoid the harsh penalties of a conviction. Attorney Mike Skinner has years of experience defending against DUI charges, including cases involving child passengers. He will listen to your story, help you develop a strong defense, and advocate aggressively on your behalf.