DUI with Child in Car in Georgia: Misdemeanor DUI and Potential Felony DUI Punishment

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DUI with Child in Car is a form of Child Endangerment that not only carries potential jail time at the county lock-up, but can also constitute a felony child endangerment and loss of all driving privileges for many years or even for LIFE. In fact a substantial minority of states now make driving under the influence with a child in a vehicle a felony.

DUI with child in car statutes do not exist in every state. Four jurisdictions (CT, NM, SD and VT) have no laws addressing impaired drivers who are engaging in child endangerment by putting helpless children in the vehicle with them. Seven states, however, have made these offenses "felony child endangerment," and those states are AK, AZ,IN, MO, NY, OK, and TX.

What Constitutes a "Child"
or a "Minor"?

Because each state in the USA enacts its own driving while intoxicated laws and establishes laws to create child endangerment charges, a mishmash of different state provisions exist relating to what constitutes DUI child endangerment, and what the criminal punishment and related loss of all driving privileges (from the convicted driver) will be. The most conservative age (below which the law makes it a crime to transport a minor child while drunk, if a child passenger is under age 12 in Kentucky), while other states broadly prohibit driving wither older "young adults" with Maine covering any passenger under age 21. The median age seems to be around 16 years or age.

Plus, child protective services may get involved in an arrest for DUI with child in car, because any preventable situation of endangering a child is something that state and federal government agencies are empowered to prevent. Some states have misdemeanor child neglect or reckless endangerment statutes that can put a parent in jail, plus restrict contact with that child and other minors of the guilty parent. In handling child endangerment cases, the author has seen harsh changes made by a domestic relations judge when divorced parents are sharing custody and a child endangerment DUI conviction occurs, which sometimes bars the guilty divorced parent from being able to drive their child again.

This quote from the MADD website gives some idea how prevalent the practice of drunken driving or drugged driving with child in car occur: "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2000 to 2009, 2,469 people under the age 15 were killed as passengers in the vehicle of a drunk driver. The CDC found that one in five deaths of
child passengers are caused by drunk drivers who typically, 64 percent of time, are passengers in the vehicle."

Other states, like Georgia, have enacted draconian driver's license laws that stack addition drunk driving convictions, end-to-end, so as to reach a 4th, 5th, 6th, etc., impaired driving conviction. With 1 or 2 children in the vehicle, and driver would only face child endangerment misdemeanor offenses, but one more DUI within 10 years creates a felony child endangerment offense, with state prison time required. A fourth DUI in 10 years (or more) are all DUI with Child in Car felonies that EACH carry a 5 year driver's license revocation [i.e., total removal of the license from the Georgia DDS (the GA DMV)].

William C. Head is a criminal defense attorney and personal injury lawyer with 41 years of litigation experience. The Atlanta DUI lawyer has authored or co-authored over a dozen books, and is Board Certified by the ABA in DUI Defense. More than 22 years ago, he started the National College for DUI Defense, and launched national DUI lawyer training for field sobriety tests and breath alcohol testing. The Georgia lawyer has handled over 200 appeals of criminal and civil cases.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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