Last October, a 25-year-old woman in Citrus County, Florida was arrested after she drove her SUV head-on into a tree. The crash claimed her three-year-old daughter’s life and injured three other children who were also in the vehicle. Her daughter and two of the other children were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.
Because authorities accused the mother of being drunk when the crash happened, she was charged with DUI manslaughter and four counts of child neglect.
Penalties for DUI with a Minor in the Vehicle
The above is an extreme and tragic example of what may happen if a person is arrested for DUI and there is a child in the vehicle. This mother lost her child and is now in danger of facing incarceration. DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Even in cases where there has been no accident or injury, DUI with a child in the car is a serious offense in Florida. According to Florida Statutes § 391.193(4), the presence of a minor under the age of 18 in the vehicle while driving under the influence is an “aggravating factor” that will increase mandatory minimum sentencing requirements.
In Florida, a person accused of DUI with a minor in the vehicle may face:
- A fine of $1,000 to $2,000
- Up to 9 months in jail
- A mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) for 6 months or more
Enhanced penalties will apply for a second or subsequent conviction.
Child Neglect Charges & Custody Issues
In addition to facing DUI charges, a person who is pulled over for drunk driving could face child neglect or endangerment charges if a minor is in the vehicle. Child neglect causing great bodily harm, as could happen in a case involving a DUI accident with a minor in the vehicle, is a felony punishable by 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Child neglect without bodily harm is a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a fine of up to $5,000.
DUI with a child in the vehicle may also be reported to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), which may open an investigation to consider whether the child’s safety is at risk. If there is a pending child custody case, this could be adversely affected as well.
Challenging DUI with a Minor Charges in Tampa, FL
If you’re facing custody problems and enhanced penalties because you were pulled over for suspected DUI with a child in the car, you still have rights. You still have options. Instead of trying to explain yourself or prove your innocence on your own, listen to your Miranda rights. Remain silent. Exercise your right to an attorney, and you might be surprised to find that your case isn’t hopeless.
By putting in the work and utilizing the right strategy, a competent Tampa DUI attorney can turn things around for a defendant facing enhanced charges for drunk driving with a minor in the vehicle. “Failed” field sobriety tests can be challenged, and there are ways to build doubt in the reliability of breath and blood testing. Human error, mishandling of evidence, rights violations, machine malfunction, and any of a number of factors could sway the case in the defendant’s favor.
Thomas & Paulk’s criminal defense attorneys have been fighting for clients in Tampa and across Florida for the past 20 years. We have handled thousands of cases, and we use this invaluable hands-on experience to secure the best result for every client we represent. To find out how we can help you, call (813) 321-7323.