What Happens if Children are Present During a DUI Stop?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that poses risks not only to the driver but also to others on the road. When children are passengers in a vehicle driven by someone under the influence, the situation becomes even more complex and concerning. In the state of Florida, the legal implications of getting stopped for DUI with children in the car elevate the seriousness of the offense and increase the potential penalties. 

Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law has represented hundreds of clients in DUI cases, including many in which the defendant had minor children in the car. The prosecution and the court consider the presence of a child in a suspected drunk driver’s car as an offense demanding extremely close attention. With decades of courtroom experience defending clients through these experiences, Stechschulte Nell is well-equipped to help you and your family defend against the state’s prosecution.  



The Seriousness of the Offense


Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a violation of the law in every state, and Florida is no exception. DUI laws are in place to protect the safety of all road users and prevent accidents caused by impaired driving. When children are present in a vehicle operated by an impaired driver, the situation becomes particularly alarming due to the vulnerability of young passengers and their inability to advocate for their own safety. 


Florida’s Enhanced Penalties


In Florida, DUI with children in the car is considered an aggravating factor that leads to enhanced penalties for the offender. The Florida legislature recognizes the increased danger posed to children in such situations and has taken measures to address it effectively. 


Increased Penalties: DUI conviction already carries substantial financial penalties, including fines. However, if you are arrested for DUI with a child under the age of 18 in the vehicle, the fines are significantly higher as a result of the aggravated circumstances. 


DUI 1st Offense Penalty without a child in the car  

  • up to 6 months in jail, minimum $500 fine, 6-month license suspension, DUI school, and 50 hours of community service 


  • DUI 1st Offense Enhanced Penalty with a minor in the car 
  • up to 9 months in jail, minimum $1,000 fine up to $2,000 max, 10-day vehicle impound, 6 month loss of license with mandatory 6 months us 
  • e of Ignition Interlock Device (IID), DUI school, 50 hours of community service 


Additional Probation Requirements: Those convicted of DUI with children in the car can also face additional probation requirements beyond what is typical for a DUI offense without child passengers. The court’s concern that the offense might be repeated unless some powerful intervention occurs will likely encourage the court to order alcohol and/or substance use assessment and order the defendant to follow any recommendation for treatment following the assessment. 


Mandatory counseling and treatment would not be unusual. 


Mandatory Ignition Interlock Device: In Florida, individuals convicted of DUI with children in the car are required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. This device measures the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) and prevents the vehicle from starting if the BAC is above a certain threshold, usually as low as 0.02, which could result from even a single alcoholic drink. 


Possible Felony Child Endangerment Charges 


In addition to the enhanced penalties for the DUI offense itself, the driver may also face charges related to child endangerment or child abuse. These charges can stem from putting children at risk by driving under the influence, which is seen as a reckless and irresponsible act that endangers their safety and well-being. 


The circumstances of each individual case will determine the likelihood of child endangerment charges being filed. Some factors that will play a role include the speed at which the driver was traveling, whether the incident involved an accident, whether anyone (especially the minor) was injured, and the driver’s prior criminal and/or driving record. 


Child Protective Services Involvement 


What happens when a driver with a minor child in the car is arrested at the scene of a DUI stop? 


A DUI arrest with children in the car can trigger involvement from Child Protective Services (CPS). In many cases, an officer will have authorities contact a responsible family member to take the child from the scene, if time and circumstances allow. However, police have no obligation to take extraordinary efforts to reach family members.  


If no family member is immediately available to take custody of the minor child, then CPS will be summoned and they will secure the child’s physical welfare, although the child is likely to suffer emotional upset throughout the incident until they are back with their family. 


Authorities have a duty to ensure the safety and welfare of children, and an arrest for DUI with children present raises concerns about the environment they are exposed to. Depending on the circumstances, CPS may conduct investigations to assess the children’s living conditions and determine whether any protective measures are necessary. 


Working with an Experienced DUI Defense Lawyer


If you find yourself facing a DUI charge with children in a car in Florida, it’s essential to seek the immediate help of an experienced DUI defense lawyer. An experienced DUI defense lawyer will help you understand your rights, use every fact possible to mitigate your culpability, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and work to obtain the most favorable case outcome possible. Building a strong defense strategy is crucial to minimize the potential consequences of the charges and protect your future.


Trust Tampa’s leading defense firm, Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law and call 813-280-1244. 

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