Driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs is a criminal offense with serious penalties in MA. But if you are arrested for OUI with a child in the car, those penalties are likely to be significantly harsher. You may even face additional charges. Case in point – a West Virginia woman is facing felony charges for child neglect following her drunk driving arrest; she had an 18-month old in the car with her at the time of the arrest.
Getting an OUI conviction with a child in the car typically carries more serious consequences. As with all criminal offenses, however, penalties vary widely based on a variety of factors. If you have no prior criminal history and you were barely above the legal limit, for example, you will likely face a lesser charge than an individual with a criminal history and high blood alcohol content (BAC). If you have previously been convicted of multiple OUIs, you may be facing a felony charge, even without having a child in the car. But the presence of a child will almost certainly result in more serious charges.
To be safe, you should never drink and drive, especially with children in the car. But if you make a mistake, it is in your best interest to hire a Boston criminal defense attorney immediately.
OUI with Child Endangerment
In 2005, it became a separate criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol with a child under 14 in the car. It was enacted as part of Melanie’s Law, legislation intended to enhance OUI-related penalties. If you have been charged with OUI with child endangerment, you may be facing the following penalties:
- First offense – Up to two-and-a-half years in jail, with a minimum of 90 days. Fines of up to $5,000 and a one-year license suspension.
- Second and subsequent offenses – Up to two-and-a-half years in jail, with a minimum of six months. Fines of up to $10,000 and a three-year license suspension.
If your actions place a child in danger of physical or emotional harm – whether negligently or intentionally – child endangerment charges may follow. In addition, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) may get involved to assess whether it would be in the children’s best interests to be removed from the home and placed in foster care.
A DCF investigation may also occur if no children were present in the car at the time of your arrest. If DCF believes that your actions may jeopardize the health and safety of your children, they can conduct an investigation even if your offense didn’t directly involve a child. In either case, it is essential to seek the help of experienced legal counsel. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with OUI with child endangerment or any other crime. Continue reading