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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > DUI > How DUI Can Lead to Child Endangerment Charges in Georgia

How DUI Can Lead to Child Endangerment Charges in Georgia


We all understand that drunk driving is reckless, irresponsible, and illegal. That is why Georgia law provides significant criminal penalties for anyone convicted of DUI. But the law also provides for additional and enhanced DUI penalties under certain circumstances, such as when a child was present in a vehicle operated by someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And this can quickly escalate to a felony charge if a child was injured or even killed in an accident that police determined was the result of drunk driving.

For example, the Georgia State Patrol arrested a 31-year-old man this past New Year’s Day after his vehicle crashed into a tow truck on I-520 near Augusta. According to news reports, there were three passengers in the vehicle in addition to the driver, including two children, ages 7 and 3 respectively. The 3-year-old child died as a result of his injuries.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office charged the driver with multiple crimes, including homicide by vehicle, DUI, and two counts of DUI with passengers under 14. The case remains pending as of this writing.

Separate Charges for Each Child Passenger

In Georgia, a first DUI offense with no prior record is normally prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor is a crime that carries a maximum possible sentence of no more than 1 year in jail. But Georgia’s DUI statute also provides that someone who commits a DUI “while transporting in a motor vehicle a child under the age of 14 years” is guilty of a separate offense of child endangerment. This is itself a misdemeanor. So even if it is a person’s first DUI arrest, if they had a child under the age of 14 in the car at the time, they are facing a separate conviction and prison sentence of up to 12 months (plus a $1,000 fine).

But there is more. Each child under 14 in the vehicle counts as a separate violation. So if there were two children in the defendant’s car, the state would prosecute two distinct violations. And a third child endangerment charge is considered a felony. So let’s say there were three children under 14 in a car with someone arrested for DUI. They would actually face at least four separate charges–the original DUI and three counts of child endangerment, one of them a felony. If convicted, such a defendant could be found a “habitual violator” and receive a five-year suspension of their driver’s license in addition to a significant amount of prison time.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

As you can see, the presence of children during a DUI arrest can carry significant legal consequences. That is why it is important to work with an experienced Georgia Board-certified DUI lawyer. 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.



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