In some circumstances, yes. If a driver is arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), he/she could face child endangerment charges if the motorist had a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 16. The charges are filed as a misdemeanor offense (as opposed to a felony) and are punishable by up to one year in jail. If you were arrested for DUI, it is critical for you to contact a criminal defense attorney now for help.

When Does a DUI Result in Child Endangerment Charges?

Under Washington law, a prosecutor can file child endangerment charges against a motorist when:

  1. The driver was arrested for driving while intoxicated, and
  2. A child under the age of 16 was present in the vehicle.

Note that, per RCW 46.61.507, police officers must make a clear notation if they arrest someone for DUI and there is a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle. In these instances, a caseworker from Washington State Child Protective Services (CPS) may decide to investigate the case. The caseworker may conduct a home visit, interview parents or guardians, and determine whether the child is in any danger. If the child appears to be at risk, CPS will continue the investigation and may remove the child from the home.

What are the penalties for child endangerment?

Child endangerment is a gross misdemeanor under Washington law. The crime is punishable by:

  • Custody in county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • A maximum fine of $5,000.

Keep in mind an offender will also face penalties and punishment for the underlying DUI offense. Those could include:

  • Jail time,
  • Fines, and
  • A driver’s license suspension.

Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?

Defendants accused of DUI with a minor in the car can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. For example, defendants can try to show that, if another person was in the vehicle at the time of the DUI arrest, he/she was not under 16. Accused people can also try to show that they were not “under the influence” when they were arrested.

Further, an accused can try and prove that the police violated one of his/her constitutional rights. Maybe, for instance, the police:

  • Arrested the accused without probable cause,
  • Failed to read the party his/her Miranda rights, or
  • Coerced a confession.

In these instances, a judge may decide to reduce or dismiss a charge because of the violation.

Contact Black & Askerov for Help

While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a DUI or child endangerment charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced DUI defense attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on drunk driving and child endangerment charges. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!