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DWI With a Child in the Car

Driving Drunk With Children in the Car Can Result in Additional Charges

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 21% of the children under 15-years-old who were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2003 were killed in alcohol-related crashes.  While many drivers may be familiar with the basics of a DWI charge in New Jersey, something most may be less familiar with is the implications if someone is driving with a minor in tow.  If you are caught driving drunk with any children in the car, you may face a disorderly persons or criminal charge in addition to the DWI charge.  The law permits the charge of endangering the welfare of a child, which can be classified as a second or third degree crime, or the disorderly persons charge of DUI with a minor as a passenger.  A conviction for either charge will result in a criminal record and potential harsh effects on your life.  If you are charged with a DWI and you had children in the car with you at the time, you should contact a New Jersey DWI lawyer immediately.  Call the experienced defense attorneys at Villani & DeLuca today!

DUI with a Minor Passenger

If any passenger in your car is 17-years-old or younger at the time you are charged with a DWI or DUI, you can be also charged with driving under the influence with a minor as a passenger under the statute N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.15(c).  A conviction of any disorderly persons offense involves fines in an amount up to $1,000 and possible jail time of up to six months.  Additional penalties of up to six months of license suspension and community service for as much as five days will also be added to the fines and sentencing issued for the underlying drunk driving conviction if you had a minor in the vehicle when you were issued a drunk driving charge.

Endangering the Welfare of a Child

If your drunk driving causes harm that a court determines is conducive of abuse or neglect to a minor under NJ law, you can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child.  If the New Jersey police charge you with endangering the welfare of a child for driving drunk with a child in the vehicle, the penalties are even more significant if you are convicted.  Endangering the welfare of a child is an indictable criminal offense, often called a felony in other jurisdictions, and could result in up to ten years in prison.
New Jersey's endangering welfare of children statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a), provides that:

  • “Any person having a legal duty for the care of a child or who has assumed responsibility for the care of a child who…causes the child harm that would make the child an abused or neglected child as defined in R.S.9:6-1, R.S.9:6-3 and P.L.1974, c.119, s.1 (C.9:6-8.21) is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Any other person who engages in conduct or who causes harm as described in this subsection to a child under the age of 16 is guilty of a crime of the third degree.”

Will Child Protective Services Get Involved?

You can possibly face a determination of abuse or neglect of your child or children if you are brought into New Jersey Family Court based on your DWI with a child charges.  Individuals in New Jersey, including police officers, who have reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect shall report it to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.  Therefore, if the NJ police officer arresting you for drunk driving reports the incident to children's services, you may be brought before Family Court.  You will risk getting restrictions on your ability to parent your child if your actions are deemed to have been a reckless disregard for your child's safety and welfare.

Call a NJ DWI Attorney for Help

If you have been charged with a DWI or DUI in New Jersey while your child or children were passengers of your car, you should seek the help of an experienced drunk driving lawyer immediately.  The DWI attorneys at Villani & DeLuca have been defending drunk driving charges for years, including those involving minor passengers.  If you're facing a DWI in Ocean County or Monmouth County towns such as Brick, Manasquan, Howell, Long Beach Island or Lakewood, call Villani & DeLuca today for your free consultation.

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Villani & DeLuca, P.C. is committed to answering your questions about Divorce & Family Law, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, and DWI & Traffic Law issues in New Jersey. We offer a Free Consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.