Seeing the blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror, you put on your blinker and pull over to the side of the road. When the cop comes to the window, he asks for your license and registration, and then, with a very serious expression on his face, he asks, “how much have you had to drink tonight?”
Step out of the car. Look at the light he is moving back and forth in front of your eyes. Stand on one leg while counting. Walk a straight line, heel to toe. Turn around and put your hands behind your back…
The sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach becomes panic as the handcuffs snap shut, and the officer says, “I’m placing you under arrest for DUI,” as he leads you to the back seat of his patrol car.
Glancing at your car, where your 8-year-old daughter is waiting, sitting in her booster seat, he says, “…and child endangerment.”
What is Child Endangerment in SC?
An ordinary DUI is bad, but it can always be worse. For example, if you were charged with DUI with your child in the car, or if someone was hurt in a car wreck…
There is a separate, additional criminal offense in SC called “child endangerment” that only applies when a person is charged with a DUI-related offense and there is a child in the vehicle.
SC Code § 56-5-2947 makes it a crime to have a passenger younger than 16 years old in your vehicle when you commit any of the following crimes:
- Failure to stop for a blue light,
- DUI/ driving under the influence,
- DUAC/ driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration, or
- Felony DUI.
You must be convicted of the underlying offense – DUI, DUAC, felony DUI, or failure to stop for a blue light – before you can be convicted of child endangerment, but the jury will most likely hear both charges at the same time.
Child Endangerment is not Child Neglect or Cruelty to Children
“Child neglect” is a separate felony offense, and “cruelty to children” is a separate misdemeanor offense in SC.
You can only be charged with child endangerment in SC if you are also charged with DUI, DUAC, felony DUI, or failure to stop for a blue light, and you can only be convicted of child endangerment in SC if you are also convicted of the underlying DUI, DUAC, felony DUI, or failure to stop for a blue light charge.
What are the Penalties for Child Endangerment in SC?
If you are convicted of child endangerment in SC, the penalties will depend on the underlying offense. For example, if you are charged with DUI and child endangerment:
- If you receive a fine only for the DUI, you will be fined an additional amount up to one-half of the maximum fine for the DUI conviction,
- If you are sentenced to prison for the DUI, you will be sentenced to an additional prison sentence up to one-half of the maximum potential prison time for the DUI conviction, and
- If you are fined and sentenced to prison, you will be fined and sentenced to additional prison time up to one-half of the maximum potential fine and one-half of the potential maximum prison time for the DUI offense.
The penalties for child endangerment are in addition to the penalties for the underlying offense, which could include fines, jail time, a license suspension, ADSAP, and an ignition interlock device requirement.
What if the Child is Injured?
If there is a traffic accident, if the driver is intoxicated, if the accident was caused by the intoxicated driver’s negligence, and if that negligence caused great bodily or death to another person, the driver can be charged with felony DUI instead of DUI or DUAC.
In addition to the child endangerment charges, the driver is now facing a felony offense that is punishable by:
- No less than 30 days and up to 15 years in prison if great bodily injury resulted, and
- No less than one year and up to 25 years in prison if death resulted.
Obviously, do not drive drunk. Especially if there is a child in the car. But, also – do not drink a drop of alcohol when you are driving with a minor in the car, because, to a police officer on the side of the road, a few swallows of wine from a glass at dinner smells the same on your breath as five or six glasses of wine…
Many of our local police and highway patrol would rather risk a wrongful arrest than risk a child being hurt – for some officers, if they smell alcohol, you are going to jail regardless of what the breathalyzer says.
Think ahead, protect yourself, and protect your children. But, if you do get caught up in DUI and child endangerment charges, call your Myrtle Beach DUI defense attorney at Coastal Law to find out how we can help.
Questions About DUI and Child Endangerment Charges in SC?
If you have been charged with DUI and child endangerment in Myrtle Beach, SC, call your SC DUI lawyer at Coastal Law immediately. We will help you to understand what your potential defenses will be once we obtain all evidence from the prosecutor and conduct an independent investigation of your case.
Call Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or send us an email message to speak with a SC DUI lawyer today.