You may face significant penalties if you’re pulled over and charged with a DUI with a child passenger. Regardless of what happened, you have rights. You may get your charges reduced or dismissed with a strong defense. If you are convicted, there are alternatives to jail and expensive fines.
Contact the experienced DUI lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to learn about your options after a DUI with a child passenger. Call us today at (412) 281-2146 or contact us online to schedule a case consultation.
What is a DUI with a Child Passenger?
In Pennsylvania, there are two categories of “DUI with a Child Passenger”: a DUI with a passenger who is a minor under the age of 18 and a DUI with a passenger under the age of 14.
These crimes have the same consequences; however, they have somewhat different options for alternative penalties.
According to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code Section 3803(b)(5), a person who commits a DUI with a passenger under 18 is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor for a first or second offense. For third and subsequent offenses, a DUI with a minor passenger is a third-degree felony.
If the passenger is under 14, the person convicted of a DUI will have fewer alternatives to jail. For example, you may not be eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, a program allowing you to attend rehabilitative programs instead of going to jail.
What Are the Elements of DUI with a Child Passenger?
To be found guilty of a DUI with a child passenger, the prosecutor must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That means a reasonable person must not doubt that you committed the crime.
Elements of a DUI
First, they must prove that you drove while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The elements of a DUI include the following:
- The violation occurred on a “highway” or “trafficway.” These roadways must be open to the public for purposes of vehicular traffic. Drinking and driving in your backyard would not violate the motor vehicle code.
- You had actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle. This includes driving or operating a motor vehicle and simply sitting behind the wheel of a parked car with the engine running.
- You were impaired. This has multiple meanings and can be proved in many ways. It includes driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over 0.08%, or you may appear substantially impaired judgment due to a lower BAC or drug influence.
Elements of a DUI with a Child Passenger
To be convicted of a DUI with a child passenger, the prosecutor must additionally prove the following:
- Your passenger was under 18 years of age at the time of the violation.
- The minor was an occupant of the vehicle when the violation occurred.
If the minor got into your vehicle when you were not in actual control of the car, you could not be convicted of a DUI with a child passenger. For example, if you are drunk and sitting in the driver’s seat but turn off the engine before the minor enters the vehicle, you are not guilty of a DUI with a child passenger.
What Are the Penalties for DUI with a Child Passenger
The penalties for driving while intoxicated with a child passenger depend on whether you have prior offenses.
First or Second Offense
A first offense DUI will be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. This is the most severe misdemeanor criminal charge. You will face between 2.5 and 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Third or Subsequent DUI
A third or subsequent DUI with a child passenger will be charged as a third-degree felony. This is the least severe level of a felony offense. You will face between 3.5 and 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
In addition to these penalties, you will have repercussions associated with the tier of DUI offense as well. That may include losing your driver’s license, an ignition interlock system, an alcohol highway safety school, and an alcohol and drug treatment program.
Other penalties may be added to your sentence or used as alternatives. For example, you may be required to complete community service or rehabilitative programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
What Aggravating Factors Could Increase a Sentence?
Aggravating factors are facts that make your crime more severe in the eyes of the law and result in harsher penalties. Some aggravating factors that may increase your sentence include:
- You had a car accident because of your DUI
- Someone was seriously injured or died in your DUI car accident
- You had a “High BAC,” at 0.10% to 0.159%
- You had a “Highest BAC,” at 0.16% or over
- You were under the influence of a controlled substance
How to Fight DUI with Child Passenger Charges
No matter the circumstances, you can defend yourself. An experienced DUI attorney helps you build a solid defense to your criminal charges and seeks the lowest penalties possible.
Your lawyer can help you develop the following arguments:
- The traffic stop was unlawful
- The arresting officer did not have reasonable suspicion that you were intoxicated
- There is no proof you were in actual physical control over the movement of the vehicle
- You did not drive the vehicle
- There is insufficient proof of impairment
- The field sobriety tests were not performed correctly or are inherently flawed
- BAC tests were flawed
- BAC testing equipment was malfunctioning or improperly calibrated
- The officer did not have probable cause to pull you over
A knowledgeable DUI lawyer can review your specific situation and gather evidence to support your defense. Your attorney can also negotiate with the prosecutor and get you the best outcome possible in terms of penalties.
You could complete the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program instead of doing time in prison.
A DUI Attorney Helps You Fight Back
You don’t have to accept the charges that the prosecutor files. You should never plead guilty right away. Instead, speak to a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer who can evaluate your case and help you understand your options. The legal team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC will listen to your story and develop a strong defense on your behalf. Call us today at (412) 281-2146 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.