Is DUI With a Child Passenger in Virginia A Serious Offense?

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 20 percent of childrenDUI who died in auto accidents in 2012 were involved in alcohol-impaired crashes. 52 percent of these children were passengers in vehicles being driven by intoxicated drivers.

Drunk driving even as a first offense is already a serious matter in Virginia.  A Virginia DUI conviction usually brings with it heavy penalties. These include license suspensions, thousands of dollars in fines, and the possibility of jail time. There are also separate penalties for specific infractions, such as transporting children while under the influence. This includes transporting anyone 17-years-old or under, whatever relation the minor is to the driver. This could include a driver’s child, relative, or friend. For instance, an 18-year-old driver who is charged with drunk driving with a 17-year-old friend in the passenger seat could face increased fines and mandatory jail time.

If you or anyone you know has been charged with a DUI with a child passenger, you need to seek the advice of your Virginia DUI defense attorney to know your rights.

What are the consequences of DUI With Child Passengers in Virginia?

Under the Commonwealth of  Virginia’s DUI law, penalties for driving under the influence are increased when the driver is with a passenger below the age of 18. On top of other DUI penalties, the following are the additional any person convicted of a DUI “while transporting a person 17 years of age or younger” shall be:

  • additional fines amounting to a minimum of $500 and not more than $1,000, and
  • mandatory minimum period of confinement of five days.

A second Virginia DUI while driving with children carries an additional 80 hours of community service, in addition to all other penalties and fines.

Is Child Abuse or Child Endangerment in a DUI Accident A Felony in Virginia;s DUI Laws?

Other statistics related to DUI with child passengers include the fact that children being transported by drunk drivers are much less likely to be wearing seat belts, further putting them in greater harm. Child endangerment is generally defined as putting a child under the age of 18 at risk for injury or death due to a willful act, omission, or refusal to provide necessary care on the part of a parent, guardian or any adult. As a result,  drunk driving with children onboard has been deemed by many states to be a form of child endangerment. Because of this, 46 states have enacted laws that enhance the penalties for DUI child endangerment.

Under Virginia law, a conviction of DUI child endangerment is a Class 6 felony when the following traffic violations have also been committed:

  • reckless driving,
  • speeding, or
  • failing to put a child in a safety restraint.

The driver could face graver Class 4 felony charges if the child being transported suffered the following serious injuries:

  • disfigurement,
  • fracture,
  • life-threatening internal injuries
  • mutilation,
  • maiming, or
  • severe burn or laceration

What Are the Other Consequences of a DUI with a Child Passenger?

In addition to jail time and fines, a DUI arrest with a minor passenger may also affect your parenting rights, child custody, or adoption.

If you have an ongoing divorce case and fighting for child custody, a DUI conviction can seriously affect your case. The court may consider you a threat to the safety of the child and may decide against awarding custody to you.

In the same way, a DUI conviction can further complicate the already tedious adoption process. Since DUI with a child passenger can also be considered child endangerment, you may be regarded as a threat to the adopted children.

Is there any way to be absolved of a DUI with Child Passenger Charge in Virginia?

Do not lose hope. There are possible defenses to DUI charges in Virginia. Pleading guilty is not your only option. The best way to avoid paying these penalties is to fight your DUI case. Virginia DUI charges can be beaten or reduced, but you will need a Virginia DUI defense attorney with plenty of experience to build your DUI defense. Call us at Fisher Legal for your free initial case evaluation.  Our experienced DUI defense lawyers will work their hardest to defend your rights.