Facing Charges for DWI with a Minor Passenger in NJ
The offense of driving under the influence in New Jersey can be punished severely, especially for subsequent offenses. When an individual decides to drive while intoxicated (DWI) or drive under influence of drugs (DUI) with a minor passenger in the vehicle, New Jersey law enforcement, prosecutors, and the criminal justice system take the offense even more seriously. Adult passengers typically have a choice and ability to exercise their own judgment when they decide to drive in a vehicle with someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but a child does not usually have that choice or the ability to understand the dangers of the situation. Accordingly, New Jersey law considers driving under the influence with a child a disorderly persons offense at the very least, but it may also give rise to a charge for third or second degree endangering the welfare of a child.
New Jersey DWI Charges with Children
You can be charged with an indictable crime for endangering the welfare of a child if you drive while intoxicated with a minor child in the vehicle. The prosecution must prove that you were in control of the vehicle, there was a child under the age of 18 riding as a passenger in the vehicle, and you were legally responsible for that child. Whether the offense will be charged as a second degree or third degree offense depends on the circumstances of your case.
What are the penalties for DUI with a Minor Passenger in NJ?
The penalties for third degree endangering the welfare of a child, an indictable offense, may include up to 3 to 5 years in state prison, with a presumption against incarceration, and up to $15,000 in fines. If you are convicted of second degree endangering the welfare of a child, you could be sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison, with a presumption of incarceration, and fines of up to $150,000. The distinction between second and third degree child endangerment is very important, as a third degree crime may result in no jail time, while a second degree crime entails mandatory imprisonment. In other words, if you are convicted of second degree endangering a child involving a DWI, you will be sentenced to jail even if you have no prior record and have never been arrested before.
Arrested for DWI with a Child, Where will my Case be Heard?
Typically, DWI charges are handled in the local municipal court in the municipality where you were arrested. However, because endangering the welfare of a child is an indictable offense, your case will be heard in the superior court in the county where you were arrested and charged. Although DUI is technically a traffic offense and usually heard in municipal court, your DWI and endangering a minor charges will likely be heard together in superior court.
Need a Lawyer for DWI with a Child Charges in Camden, NJ
The most effective way to handle a charge of endangering the welfare of a child, based on driving while intoxication with that child in the vehicle, is to focus on defending against the underlying DWI charge. Due to the complexity of these cases, it is best to have your case defended by an experienced DUI lawyer who has successfully handled cases like yours on numerous occasions previously. William C. Fay and the DWI attorneys at our firm are skilled at challenging the admissibility of evidence against you, due to issues with the validity of test results or instances where your constitutional rights were violated. We have been defending clients arrested for DUI with children in New Jersey for years and know what it takes to win in these cases. Call us today at for 609-832-3202 for a free consultation. We would be happy to review your case and discuss what defenses may be available to you. If you need help fighting DWI and child endangerment in Camden County or elsewhere in South Jersey, we regularly appear in courts in Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Pennsauken, Gloucester City, Berlin, Stratford and surrounding areas.