Driving Under the Influence with a Minor Passenger

In New Jersey, those who are charged with driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle can face penalties in addition to the standard DWI penalties. For example, a South Jersey woman was recently arrested after she drove a school bus with 25 children on board. The defendant had a blood alcohol content of 0.25% — three times the legal limit of 0.08%. The woman was charged with 25 counts of driving under the influence with a minor, 25 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, driving under the influence on school property, and disorderly conduct.

Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.15, those who operate a motor vehicle under the influence with a minor passenger can be charged with driving under the influence with a minor passenger. The statute imposes additional penalties on drivers. Additionally, if convicted of this offense, which is a disorderly persons offense (or misdemeanor), the person will have a criminal record.

In order to qualify under this statute, the individual charged must be a “parent or guardian” of the minor. The statute defines a parent or guardian broadly. A parent or guardian includes the natural parent, the stepparent, the adoptive/foster parent, or any person temporarily responsible for the care of the minor, such as babysitters, teachers, or bus drivers. The statute defines a minor as any person 17 years old or younger.

If convicted of this offense, the individual charged under this statute faces the following penalties:

  • Up to six months in prison;
  • A fine of up to a $1,000.00;
  • Up to six months loss of license; and
  • Up to five days of community service.

In addition to being charged with driving under the influence with a minor, drivers may also be charged with standard driving under the influence charges as well. Moreover, the presence of a minor in the vehicle will do little to improve the driver’s chances of leniency with respect to the penalties imposed for a standard DWI.

Additionally, as shown above, an individual that is found guilty of driving while intoxicated with a minor in the vehicle can also be charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Endangering the welfare of a child is a very serious charge. It is usually a second-degree crime, which can result in 5 to 10 years in prison. If you are charged with a third-degree crime for endangering the welfare of a minor, you may face 3 to 5 years in prison.

Randolph H. Wolf is an experience DWI and criminal defense attorney that understands the serious nature of such charges. If you have been charged with any of the above offenses, you need an experienced attorney to develop a strategy for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.