When a DWI arrest occurs, the driver may not be the only occupant of the vehicle. There may be any number of passengers, including children. DWI incidents involving child passengers are common (one recent example involves a man arrested on the I-94 for DWI with a 16-month-old child in the car).
If there’s a child in your car when you get arrested for a DWI, the charges against you may change and you may face additional penalties.
Aggravating factors in Minnesota DWI laws
If the child passenger is under the age of 16 and more than 36 months younger than you, this gets counted as an aggravating factor during a non-felony DWI arrest (when getting charged with first-degree DWI, which is a felony, the presence of a child doesn’t come into play as an aggravating factor). Other aggravating factors include a blood alcohol level of at least .20 and, within the past 10 years, another DWI conviction or impaired driving penalty.
Here’s an example of how an aggravating factor such as transporting a child during a DWI incident can change things for you. Let’s say you get pulled over and arrested for a DWI. It’s your first arrest of this kind; you have no history of impaired driving. Let’s say your blood alcohol content is under .20. Assuming you weren’t involved in a crash, killing or injuring anyone, you’d likely be facing 4th degree DWI, a misdemeanor.
However, if under the same set of circumstances you also have a child passenger in the car with you, you could be looking at 3rd degree DWI, which is a gross misdemeanor; the maximum penalties, which include fines and jail time, also increase.
In addition to potentially steeper criminal penalties, you could also face tougher administrative penalties, including license plate impoundment; the order for impounding your license plate can occur immediately, at the time of your arrest.
Don’t hesitate to contact a Minnesota DWI lawyer following an arrest. In addition to serving as your advocates in the criminal justice system, an experienced attorney can also help you deal with the immediate impact of a DWI arrest on your life, including the loss of certain driving privileges. It’s important to keep in mind that, even if an accident doesn’t occur, there are different kinds of DWI charges you may face; they’re determined, in part, by the people you’re transporting in your vehicle.