Driving under the influence of alcohol in Colorado, commonly referred to as a DUI, is a crime taken very seriously by the state. This is because it’s a crime that can endanger the public.
But what if the public isn’t the only ones endangered by a DUI? The children who are riding in a car with someone who is guilty of committing a DUI offense can also be put in great danger. That’s something Colorado also takes very seriously, and charges can result.
Here’s what you need to know about how a DUI charge can lead to charges of child abuse in Colorado – and why you may want to think twice about getting behind the wheel with a child in the car if you’ve been drinking.
DUIs in Colorado
In Colorado, as in other states, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if you have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher, even if you’re not impaired. It is also illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08 percent with impairment, which is called a DWAI or driving while ability impaired.
Violating the law in either instance can land you in jail with charges. These charges can get a whole lot more complicated if there was a child in the car with you when you were pulled over.
Child Abuse in Colorado
In Colorado, child abuse occurs when an act is committed that causes injury to the health or life of a child – or allows them to be put in a situation that risks their health or life. It can also be a continued pattern of behavior that leads to injuries, malnourishment, cruel punishment, or lack of proper medical care that eventually leads to serious injury or death of the child. A child is anyone under the age of 16 in the eyes of the law.
DUI With a Child in the Car
If you are arrested for a DUI, and you have a child under the age of 16 in the car with you, then you can face different penalties depending upon how the incident impacted the child.
If the child is in the car but has sustained no injuries, you likely will face DUI charges and misdemeanor child abuse charges. That can mean additional penalties, such as community service, up to 12 months in jail, fines, probation, and the loss of your driver’s license for a period of time.
If the child in the car was injured because of your DUI, then you can face a Class 3 felony. These charges can result in a prison sentence of up to six years with mandatory parole for three years and up to $500,000 in fines. Reckless driving in the incident can elevate your prison sentence to 12 years and increase the fine to $750,000.
If the worst happens, and the child in the car dies as a result of your DUI, then you Class 2 felony, which can result in up to 24 years in prison with a mandatory parole period of five years and up to $1 million in fines.
If you have been charged with both a DUI and child abuse as a result of having a child in the car with you, then you need to ensure you have an attorney on your side. They will help you understand the charges against you, and your rights in the situation, and help you to formulate a good defense.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.