How Does Having a Child in the Car Affect a Georgia DUI Case?
A drunk driving arrest is never a good thing. If convicted of a first DUI offense in Georgia, you face up to one year in jail, a fine of $1,000, and the suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year, among other penalties. And these consequences escalate if you have additional or prior DUI convictions on your record.
Child Endangerment Charges Can Lead to Additional Drunk Driving Penalties
One thing that can quickly elevate a DUI charge in Georgia is the presence of children in your car at the time of your DUI arrest. Georgia law creates a separate criminal offense for “endangering a child by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” This offense requires prosecutors to prove just two things:
- You were operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and
- You were transporting a person under the age of 14 years at the time.
By law, the district attorney and the court cannot merge the child endangerment charge with the underlying DUI. In other words, the child endangerment must be separately charged and sentenced if the defendant is found guilty. But the prosecution must still prove the DUI in order to secure a conviction on the child endangerment count.
The penalties for a child endangerment DUI are similar to those to a regular DUI. But once again, you must understand that these penalties are in addition to the DUI sentence. And technically, a person sentenced for child endangerment is punished under the same provisions of Georgia law applicable to someone convicted of “contributing to the delinquency, unruliness, or deprivation of a child,” which are as follows:
- For a first or second offense, the defendant is sentenced for a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of 12 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000;
- For a third or subsequent offense, the defendant is sentenced for a felony, which carries a prison term of between 1 and 3 years, and a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000.
But perhaps the most devastating aspect of a DUI child endangerment conviction is how the DUI penalties can stack for each child in the car. Basically, the state can charge a separate offense for each child under the age of 14 in the car. And if convicted, the defendant is punished as if each child constitutes a separate DUI conviction. So let’s say a person had two children in their car when charged with DUI. If convicted, the person would be treated as if they were convicted of three DUIs and sentenced as a “habitual violator” under Georgia law.
Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today
As you can see, the consequences of a DUI charge can be particularly devastating if children are involved. So if you are facing this kind of a charge, it is essential that you work with an experienced DeKalb County DUI lawyer who will represent your interests. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.