Every state enforces safe-driving laws that intend to protect both the driver and the public from reckless accidents. One of the illegal activities that puts drivers and pedestrians at risk is driving under the influence (DUI).
Driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs comes with hefty penalties, because of how severe the injuries can be in drunk-driving related accidents. Though it might not be a comfortable topic, sometimes adults make the decision to navigate children while impaired. No matter the context, this act can unnecessarily put children at risk for fatal injuries.
What Constitutes a DUI Charge?
Law enforcement charges individuals with DUI when they choose to operate heavy machinery while under the influence of alcohol, unregulated prescription medication, and/or drugs of any legal status. In terms of alcohol, a driver must possess a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher for law enforcement to charge them with DUI.
Though a legal minimum is set on a driver’s BAC, an officer can also charge them with driving while impaired (DWI) even if their BAC is below the legal mimimum. DWI charges typically occur when an officer observes reckless behavior and/or obviously impaired actions that imply the driver cannot safely operate their vehicle. Though DWI is not as severe as DUI, context dictates the consequences an officer assigns after pulling you over.
Aggravating factors are details surrounding your case that make your punishment worse. For example, violating open container law is an aggravating factor that could impact penalties for your DUI charge.
When you drive minors around in your car while you’re impaired, you’re committing child endangerment. This is one of the worst aggravating factors in terms of driving under the influence. Law enforcement considers this to be a “grossly aggravating factor” because the driver is risking child fatality. In North Carolina, driving drunk with a minor in the car constitutes the most severe DUI-related punishment.
No court in North Carolina has ever given less than a Level 1 penalty for driving under the influence with minors in the vehicle. This represents the most severe form of punishment a judge can give when addressing DUI charges.
The consequences include:
- A fine of up to $4,000
- A minimum sentence of 30 days in jail, up to 2 years
- Revoked driving privileges for 1 year
If a driver does not receive a prison sentence, they must accept probation for the same length of time. Probation includes constant alcohol monitoring and abstaining from drinking for at least four months.
DUI charges also blemish your driving record, typically for a much longer time than you spend addressing the immediate consequences of a DUI. In North Carolina, DUI/DWI charges stay on your record for seven years. If you possess a criminal record, the charge remains for a lifetime.
The consequences associated with a DUI escalate depending on how many offenses you’ve previously incurred. For example, a second-time offender in North Carolina must install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. This is a breathalyzer that a driver must activate to start their car. Despite the legal consequences of a DUI charge when driving with minors, the more significant losses could occur within your home.
If you make a habit of endangering your child, you could have Child Protective Services to deal with along with the question of who will watch your children while you’re in jail. The consequence of losing your children, and exposing them to such damaging situations, is more disheartening than simply having to pay a $4,000 fine.
It is imperative for drivers that operate their vehicles while intoxicated, especially with children in their car, to consider the consequences that would ensue from their actions.