DUI WITH CHILD PASSENGER
Let's suppose you're a parent who has one too many drinks at a family gathering, and are pulled over while driving your family home. Or you could be an 18-year old high school senior, who gets pulled over for a DUI with a 17-year old friend in the vehicle. If you fall into either category, you are subject to the sentencing enhancements for Driving Under the Influence with a minor in your vehicle.
While the penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs are harsh, the penalties for DUI with a Child or Minor Passenger are some of the harshest penalties under Pennsylvania DUI law. The most critical step you can take moving forward is contacting a skilled Pittsburgh DUI defense lawyer.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A DUI WITH A MINOR PASSENGER?
Section 3803(e) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code provides that an individual who commits a DUI offense where a minor under the age of 18 is a passenger commits a 1st-Degree Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
A person charged with a DUI with a Minor Passenger offense will face whatever penalties apply based upon their number of prior offenses coupled with the tier of their DUI offense. The following additional mandatory penalties apply:
- 1st Offense: Mandatory $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service
- 2nd Offense: Mandatory $2,500 fine, 30 day jail sentence and additional maximum sentence of up to 6 months
- 3rd or Subsequent Offense: Mandatory minimum 6-month jail sentence and additional maximum sentence of up to 2 years.
So for example, a person charged with a Highest Tier, 2nd Offense DUI (BAC above .16%) is facing a 90-day mandatory jail sentence in addition to a 30-day mandatory jail sentence for the DUI With Minor Passenger sentencing enhancement, for a total of 120 days.
WHAT IF MY CHILD WAS NOT INJURED OR ENDANGERED?
Consider yourself lucky if your minor passenger wasn't hurt, but the Commonwealth does not need to prove injury or danger to your child for the child passenger sentencing enhancement to apply. The mere presence of a minor in your vehicle at the time of your DUI arrest is sufficient to trigger the enhanced grading and penalties.
HOW DOES THIS LAW IMPACT FIRST TIME OFFENDERS?
In many cases, 1st-time DUI offenders are the most negatively impacted by the minor passenger sentencing enhancements. The major difference in consequences are:
- ARD Eligibility: First-time offenders with minor occupants under 14 years of age are automatically denied from ARD consideration.
- Offense Grading and Maximum Jail or Probation: First DUI offenses without minor occupants are ungraded misdemeanors punishable by a maximum of 6 months in jail or probation. First DUI offenses with a minor occupant are graded as 1st-Degree Misdemeanors punishable by a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in jail or probation. So a 1st-time offender with a minor occupant is facing 4.5 additional years of jail or probation.
- License Suspension: For non-minor occupant cases, the suspension ranges from 0-12 months. For minor occupant cases, the license suspension is 18 months.
- Fines: For non-minor occupant cases, the mandatory minimum fine ranges from $300-$1,000. For minor occupant cases, the mandatory fine for a first offense is $1,000.
- Community Service: First-time offenders with minor occupants are required to perform 100 hours of community service, where there is no mandatory requirement for DUI offenders without minor occupants.
CAN I STILL QUALIFY FOR THE ARD PROGRAM?
It depends. As stated above, you cannot receive ARD if a minor occupant was under the age of 14. While those who drive with occupants aged between 14-17 are not automatically denied from ARD consideration, some District Attorney's Offices are not offering ARD to anyone driving with a minor occupant.
In order to make a compelling case for ARD consideration, it is important to hire a qualified DUI defense attorney who has experience defending similar cases in the county where you are charged.
HOW THE ZUCKERMAN LAW FIRM CAN HELP
Courts throughout Western Pennsylvania are cracking down on DUI offenders, particularly those who endanger children as a result of their drinking behavior. If you're accused of a DUI, and had a child in your vehicle at the time of the offense, you need to obtain a highly-rated DUI defense attorney to tackle your case and work for the best possible results under the circumstances.
The Zuckerman Law Firm has DUI trial and negotiation experience, and utilizes this experience to minimize consequences for our clients. We can take your case to trial or work to negotiate a favorable plea agreement, which may include:
- House Arrest instead of a mandatory jail sentence
For a free consultation, don't wait - contact the Zuckerman Law Firm now at 412-447-5580.