Most people are familiar with basic drunk driving laws in New Jersey, but are far less knowledgeable about what happens if you are caught driving while intoxicated (DWI) with a minor in tow. This is an extremely serious offense with deliberately harsh penalties. If you have been arrested or charged with drunk driving and you had a minor in the vehicle, you need our help. Our New Jersey DWI attorneys understand how serious these charges are and also know how to handle them.
A man from Elizabeth recently pled guilty to a drunk driving accident that killed his daughter last year. In November 2018, police were called regarding a car accident on 1-295 north. Upon arrival, they discovered a man’s Ford Focus in the grass beyond the right shoulder. His 9-year old daughter had been tossed from the vehicle into a wooded area and suffered deadly injuries. The man and a younger daughter, who was also in the vehicle at the time of the accident, were not seriously hurt. The man allegedly consumed multiple alcohol beverages at an establishment before driving. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was determined to be double the legal limit. Prosecutors say that the 38-year old man pled guilty to one count of vehicular homicide, one count of endangering the welfare of a child and driving while intoxicated.
There are typically two kinds of charges that can result when a minor is in the car during a DWI arrest. N.J.S.A 39:4-50:15 makes driving with a minor (17 years of age or younger) in the car a disorderly persons offense and calls for additional criminal penalties for drivers who are found guilty of a DWI with a minor present. These penalties include possible jail time, up to six months of license suspension, fines up $1,000 and no more than five days of community service. It is important to note that these are penalties on top of the serious penalties you would be facing for a DWI in the first place.
In more serious cases, you could be charged with endangering the welfare of a child under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4, which is a felony offense. Endangerment refers to any action that would jeopardize the child’s safety or any conduct that could be indicative of neglect or abuse. If convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, you could face much more serious consequences including up to $15,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison.
In the aforementioned case, the child in the car died, which is why the defendant father was charged with vehicular homicide in addition to a DWI and endangering the welfare of a child. It is important to note that in New Jersey, any motorist who causes the death of another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol faces felony charges.
The penalties for drinking and driving with a minor in the car are deliberately harsh due to the risk of harm to the child. If you have been charged with drunk driving and had a minor in the car, you need a seasoned New Jersey criminal defense attorney on your side. We understand how to employ effective defense strategies for our clients based on their unique situation. For more information, call us at 877-450-8301 or contact us online.