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Why having a minor in your car could worsen your DUI charge

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2023 | DWI Defense |

In New Jersey, a person charged with DUI while operating a car with a minor inside may also face a criminal charge for child endangerment. The law is strict on DUI violators because of the danger they pose to themselves and other motorists on the road. Purposefully putting a child in danger only makes matters worse and runs the risk of receiving a heavier punishment from the state.

Penalties for DUI with a minor in the vehicle

In New Jersey, anyone aged 17 and below is a minor. If the police apprehend you for DUI, and there is a minor in your car, you may face either of these charges:

Disorderly persons offense

Driving after drinking or using drugs with a minor in the car is a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, also known as a misdemeanor in other states. You may face six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, suspension of your driver’s license and five days of community service.

A disorderly persons offense may have lesser consequences than a felony, but it will still appear on your criminal record. You will have to wait five years after finishing your sentence before you can expunge it from your record.

Criminal offense

A parent or guardian may be guilty of child endangerment if they knowingly put their child in danger. Since children cannot think for themselves, it is the responsibility of adults to supervise them and ensure they are safe. Driving under the influence as a parent or guardian is reckless and endangers the child.

The state protects its children by imposing harsh penalties for anyone caught endangering the welfare of a child. In New Jersey, it is a second-degree crime with heavy repercussions, including up to $150,000 in fines and five to ten years in jail.

Risk of losing custody

There is also a high chance that child protective services will step in and investigate you and your children. If there is sufficient evidence that you are a danger to your child, you may lose custody.

Children have no choice but to stay in the car with you when you are driving. As an adult, you can help keep them safe by having someone else drive or wait until you are sober.