The criminal laws in the state of Georgia were designed with the important goal of protecting the public from the potentially harmful actions of others. Certain groups are viewed under the law as deserving of more protection, such as the elderly, those with cognitive or physical disabilities, and children. This is why there are special laws created to protect these groups from discrimination and mistreatment. Children are a particularly vulnerable group, as they are at the mercy of the adults who have been charged with protecting them.
In Atlanta, if you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and there was a child in the vehicle age 14 or younger at the time of your arrest, you will automatically face an additional and very serious charge: endangering a child by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The law views driving under the influence as a very serious offense, but when a child is involved, it is even more serious. Any driver who gets behind the wheel is responsible for the safety of the passengers in his or her vehicle. While adults have the ability to recognize when a driver is impaired and generally have the ability to keep themselves from riding with a drunk driver, children oftentimes do not. In addition, a person who is impaired could put a child at risk of neglecting critical safety concerns with seat belts or a car seat, not to mention putting children at risk of being involved in a serious motor vehicle accident.
If you are charged with DUI and Endangering a Child, it is important to note that these are two completely separate charges. Whatever conviction and penalties you may be facing for DUI, the penalties for Endangering a Child will be completely separate and any potential sentence will be given in addition to the penalty given for driving under the influence. A first offense Child Endangerment is considered a misdemeanor, and the penalty includes 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
This means that If, for example, a driver is charged with a first offense DUI and first offense Child Endangerment, the penalties for the two will be combined and therefore the maximum sentence could be two years in jail and a $2,000 fine, along with community service and other court-imposed requirements. Subsequent offenses for Child Endangerment are even more serious. A second offense of Child Endangerment (also a misdemeanor) is punishable by 12 month in jail and a fine of $5,000. A third offense of Child Endangerment is a felony. This is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
Consequences of a Child Endangerment Conviction Outside the Courtroom
Even though Child Endangerment is considered a misdemeanor, the consequences of a conviction can be very serious for some individuals. If you are in a profession that puts you in regular contact with children such as a teacher, coach, or day care provider, a Child Endangerment conviction may have severe implications on your employment (and in some cases may be a violation of your employment contract, and therefore grounds for termination). Additionally, a charge of this nature could impact a dispute over the custody of a child in your care now or in the future.
Charges of Child Endangerment and DUI are very serious, but there are legal defenses available. If you are facing these charges, please contact me. We can discuss your situation and begin working on your defense together.