There is little that can worry a driver more than being stopped by a city or township police officer or state police trooper after having had a couple drinks prior. The fear of getting a ticket for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated by liquor, beer or wine, and even prescription medication can be overwhelming to some. Having to stand up in front of a municipal or county judge to answer for a DWI charge can be humiliating, to say the least. Never mind the financial and social cost.
And this is when nothing else bad has occurred to cause the traffic stop. As New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys, I and my staff of qualified DWI lawyers know that being arrested for drunk driving or receiving a DUI summons is no picnic especially if the arrest coincided with a traffic accident, injury to another driver or passenger, or worst of all, an untimely death. The fact is, neither the police nor New Jersey's court system is even mildly sympathetic to individuals who drive while intoxicated by alcohol or impaired by doctor-prescribed medication.
With hundreds of drunk driving cases passing through New Jersey courts every month, it's no surprise that many of those will have involved a collision or some other more serious offense. Because of the seriousness of some drunken driving incidents, many states have laws on the books that penalize drivers for committing DWI-related offenses under a variety of circumstances, not the least of which is driving drunk with a minor riding inside the car with that person.
Take, for instance, a New Jersey man who was arrested in New York State and charged with a felony DWI after being stopped along Rte 303 for going 74mph in a 40mph speed zone. Based on news reports, 40-year-old Brandon Spurlin of New Milford, NJ, was stopped by police for speeding and then arrested for being intoxicated behind the wheel. The felony count was a result of the man having four children in the vehicle with him at the time of the incident.
According to news reports, Mr. Spurlin had one teenager and three other younger kids in his vehicle as he allegedly sped along Rte 303. As a result of the police stop, the driver was accused of violating New York's "Leandra's Law," which makes it a felony (even on a first offense) to drive drunk with minors in the same car. Also known as the "Child Passenger Protection Act," Leandra's Law states that any driver who has a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more and drives with a person age 15 or younger in his or her vehicle can be found guilty of a DWI-related felony. The law was passed in 2009.
Individuals like Mr. Spurlin who are convicted of drunken driving with minors on board can end up facing felony-level penalties. That is, a Class E felony if that person is found to have been operating their vehicle while intoxicated; a Class D felony if the arrest coincided with a reckless driving incident that does not involve a death or serious physical injury. For anyone wondering how heavy those penalties can be, consider the possibility of a fine ranging from $1,000-$5,000, as well as potential jail time of up to four years.
The driver in this case had even more strikes against him, as news reports indicate that he had his New York driver's license suspended twice in the past, not to mention that the six-year-old youngster was not secured in a proper child restraint. Apparently, the local officials also referred the man to child protective services for further investigation.
Police: N.J. Man with 4 Children in Car Charged with Felony DWI, Patch.com, September 19, 2012