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What if I have kids in the car when driving under the influence?

Driving under the influence is an issue that continues to plague jurisdictions across the country, especially New York. Even if you have a clean driving and criminal record, the penalties are steep for a first-time DUI offender. You may already know about the consequences of a DUI, but if you get caught operating a vehicle while under the influence with minor passengers, you could face additional criminal charges in addition to a DUI.

DUI cases that involve child passengers are more complex and can immediately change lives. Sadly, many parents expose their children to the dangers of drunk driving every day. Here are a few things that you should know about driving while under the influence with your children in the car.

You put more than yourself in immediate danger

Driving while drunk or intoxicated makes you a threat to society. If you do so with your kids in your vehicle, you become a threat to their safety. Not only do you risk getting a DUI, but you must also contend with the consequences of child endangerment. This may not sound as serious as a DUI, but the consequences can linger long after your arrest.

Your children could end up in protective custody

If law enforcement arrests you on suspicion of a DUI while your children are in the car, you will still go to jail. The cops cannot and will not babysit your kids until you deal with the situation. The law requires them to either contact another guardian/relative to pick them up or to place them into protective custody.

You could end up with a felony

The penalties for driving while drunk with young passengers are much more severe. A first-time DUI conviction includes a mandatory ignition interlock device on your vehicle, serving up to 15 days in jail, a 90-day license suspension and fines up to $500. The consequences of a DUI with children passengers include up to a four-year jail sentence, the use of an ignition interlock device and fines. Law enforcement must also inform the New York's Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. The previously mentioned penalties only apply if there are no injuries. If you end up injuring (or worse) one of your minor passengers while driving drunk, the consequences increase substantially. You could face a 25-year prison sentence.

A first-time DUI offense is a misdemeanor if there are no injuries or property damage. Driving while impaired and with kids in the vehicle is a felony offense, regardless of any prior criminal history. It is also a form of child endangerment.

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