Every parent’s nightmare is that their child will die before them. The tragedy is compounded when a child is killed by a drunk driver. But what if you are that DUI driver and you cause the death of your own child. Just this week, a Los Angeles mother was driving under the influence with her two infant twins and a toddler in her car when she caused an accident. One of the infants died and the other two suffered injuries. The mother came out with minor injuries. This driver was driving at a high rate of speed and crossed over into oncoming traffic. She was probably heavily under the influence, although her impairment levels have not been made public yet. She faces manslaughter charges, possibly a second-degree murder charge.
Parents driving under the influence and causing their own child’s death is rare. But a quick search of the news archives reveals many instances where this has happened. For example, just this month a Maryland woman was convicted of manslaughter after six passengers in her vehicle were killed due to her drunk driving. Five of those killed were children, and two of the children were her own. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The potentially tragic consequences of driving drunk are compounded when children are involved. In California, the vehicle and penal codes provide additional punishment for driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle. Anyone who is arrested for driving under the influence with a child 14 years of age or younger can also be charged with a DUI sentencing enhancement (Vehicle Code section 23572). Or the driver can be charged with child endangerment (Penal Code section 273(a)) if the child is under the age of eighteen. It is up to the prosecutor to determine the charge. A driver charged under both code sections can only be convicted of one but can also be charged with the underlying DUI charge and neither of these charges will stand if the driver is not convicted of the underlying DUI.
Even after a few beers at the family picnic, a driver might feel sober enough to drive his or her kids home. Hopefully, that driver won’t misjudge and end up in a tragic accident. But even if the driver feels sober, he or she might still be over the per se BAClimit of .08%. A minor traffic violation could result in not only a DUI but a potential sentencing enhancement or child endangerment charges.
If that occurs, the best defense is a defense against the underlying DUI. While DUIs don’t always present obvious defenses, there are ways to get the charge dismissed or reduced to a non-DUI defense such as (dry) reckless driving. A DUI may be dismissed if the officer making the stop and arrest did so unlawfully or violated the DUI protocol. Sometimes if the driver’s BAC is just at .08% or a tad over, the tests may be challenged. If these defenses are not available, an experience DUI defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor to get the sentence enhancement or child endangerment charges dismissed.
The best advice is to never drive after drinking (even a little bit) with a child in the car.
Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg has defended hundreds of DUI charges over his 25-years as a defense attorney. If you have been arrested for DUI, he is available for a complimentary consultation to discuss your options. You may contact him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.