The charge of Child Endangerment while OUI took effect in 2005. Since then, whenever police find children who appear to be under the age of 14 in the car with a person being arrested for OUI, they will automatically include the charge of child endangerment while OUI, along with the underlying OUI charge.
The charge of child endangerment while OUI provides for an “enhanced penalty” of a mandatory minimum 90 days in jail, to be served after, and not concurrently with, the sentence imposed on the underlying OUI offense. In addition, the charge carries a minimum of a $1,000 fine, which can increase to up to $10,000 after a conviction.
Child Endangerment while OUI, Subsq. Off.
The child endangerment while OUI statute also provides for its own enhanced penalties for subsequent offenses – where a defendant is alleged to have previously violated that statute. In subsequent offense cases, the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment is increased to 6 months, and the minimum fine is increased to $5,000.
Department of Children and Families Involvement
If the children involved are the children of the person driving the car, or even in many cases where they are not, the Department of Children and Families will get involved to determine if it believes that the children's best interests would be served by being placed in a foster home.
If you are in need of an attorney who specializes in defending cases where DCF is seeking to place children in a foster home, contact me immediately to discuss the facts of your case.
Defending Child Endangerment While OUI
I have had cases where the police forget to take the name, address, or phone number of the “child” involved, and are therefore unable to prove the offense.
More often, however, the charge of child endangerment while OUI rises and falls with the underlying offense of OUI. Therefore, unlike Negligent Operation charges, which can provide the Commonwealth with an alternative basis for conviction even if it loses the case on the OUI charge, the charge of child endangerment only applies if the Commonwealth can prove the underlying offense of driving under the influence.
For more discussion of the common strategies for defending the underlying charge of OUI, see the discussion of that charge here.
If you or someone you know is charged with child endangerment while OUI, or with an operating under the influence charge, contact me immediately for a free, confidential, consultation.