Woman Faces Uncertainty After Being Charged With DUI Child Endangerment

A Marietta mother has discovered how serious Georgia law enforcement takes driving and drinking with minors in the vehicle. After being pulled over for driving on the wrong side of the road, she is now facing a string of charges, and her relationship with her son is now uncertain.

According to reports, the deputy forced the woman to stop when her car came “nose-to-nose” with the deputy’s vehicle. After looking into her car, the deputy noticed an open beer bottle in the center console, another empty beer bottle, a strong odor of alcohol, and her 8-month-old son in the backseat.

She had no identification and spoke gibberish.

Unable to conduct roadside field sobriety tests because she couldn’t stand on her own, officers charged the woman with a host of offenses, including:

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • DUI Child endangerment
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Driving without a license
  • Driving with an open container
  • Driving without headlights.

As she was awaiting questioning by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it was not clear who had custody of her young son.

What are the Penalties for DUI Child Endangerment?

Notice in the above case how the woman received two separate DUI charges. Under Georgia law, each child in your car will create a separate DUI offense if you’re charged with DUI Child Endangerment.

If you’re convicted of the charges – even if it’s your first offense – you could be facing a $1,000 fine or one year behind bars, or both.

If there are two children in the car, you could receive three separate DUI charges, which means a five-year suspended license as a habitual offender.

That’s just for starters.

Officers who arrest you for DUI Child Endangerment will notify the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services to take temporary custody of the child, which can have devastating effects on your family life.

If you’re a parent going through a divorce, the impact of a conviction of DUI Child Endangerment is serious. You could lose custody of your child and receive only supervised visits.

A DUI Child Enforcement conviction could also result in the loss of your job if it involves supervision or transporting children.

Do I Have to Take a Field Sobriety Test in Georgia?

As we wrote in a previous issue, you now have the right not to incriminate yourself if you’re suspected of DUI in Georgia. This includes your right to refuse field sobriety and breathalyzer tests.

Of course, the officer will most likely obtain a search warrant for a blood test on the grounds of probable cause. That test will likely produce a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading lower than what a breathalyzer would have shown.

Even if you haven’t been drinking, there are other reasons to avoid taking a field sobriety test.

For example, certain medications – both over the counter and legally prescribed – can get in the way of an accurate breathalyzer test reading.

Also, the field sobriety tests commonly used by Georgia law enforcement officers are notoriously unreliable and may also provide false results. Here’s how:

  • Eye Test. The officer will ask you to follow the movement of a penlight with your eyes. In this test, the officer is mainly looking for an eye twitch. Even under ideal circumstances, the eye test is only 77% accurate.
  • One-Leg-Stand. This test involves counting while standing on one leg as the officer checks your balance. People who are most vulnerable to this test are senior citizens, those who are more than 50 pounds overweight, and individuals suffering from problems with inner ear balance issues or leg and back pain.
  • Walk and Turn. You’ll take nine heel-to-toe steps while staying in a straight line before turning on one foot and doing the same thing in the opposite direction. Losing your balance, turning incorrectly, or simply taking the wrong number of steps can result in failing the test.

What Should I Do If I’m Pulled Over for DUI In Georgia?

Even if you haven’t been drinking when you’re pulled over for suspicion of DUI in Georgia, the way you conduct yourself will go a long way in determining how your life will be impacted by the charge.

While police do not have an automatic right to search your car and you don’t have to answer questions or take a field sobriety test, it’s best to keep calm, and be polite as you stand your ground.

Any aggressive behavior can result in other charges, such as resisting arrest.

Instead of trying to prove your innocence on your own, your first call should be to a DUI attorney, who can immediately begin to put together a defense to avoid what can be devastating consequences.