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DUI and Child Endangerment Laws in Minneapolis

Like every state, Minnesota has laws that prevent adults from putting minor children in dangerous or risky situations. While these criminal child endangerment offenses can cover a wide range of behavior, one of the most common examples involves driving while intoxicated. An impaired driver with a child passenger not only is at risk of a DWI conviction but also a charge of child endangerment.

These situations can result in compounding legal complications. However, you have the right to fight back not only in your DWI case, but also against allegations of child endangerment. Often, a defense strategy that succeeds in one case will be viable in both.

If you face charges of DWI and child endangerment in Minneapolis, it is vital that you seek out legal counsel right away. The attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to help you defend yourself and seek a fair outcome to your case. Call a defense lawyer from our firm right away to learn more.

What is Child Endangerment?

Child endangerment is a criminal offense governed by Minnesota Statute Section 609.378. This statute covers a wide range of behavior that puts a child at risk of harm. This includes things like allowing a child to be sexually abused or failing to provide for their basic needs. According to the statute:

“…a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker who willfully deprives a child of necessary food, clothing, shelter, health care, or supervision appropriate to the child’s age, when the parent, guardian, or caretaker is reasonably able to make the necessary provisions and the deprivation harms or is likely to substantially harm the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health is guilty of neglect of a child…”

When it comes to DWI arrests, a specific section of the state applies. According to Section 609.378(b)(1) makes it a crime to intentionally or recklessly cause or permit a child to be placed in a situation likely to substantially harm the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health or cause the child’s death.

Who Can Be Charged in Minneapolis?

A person is only guilty of neglect or endangerment under certain circumstances. One of the circumstances involves the relationship between the accused and their child passenger. A person must have some degree of responsibility over the child as a parent, guardian, or caretaker. However, the term “caretaker” is fairly broad and likely applies to most adults that are operating a motor vehicle with a child inside.

Penalties for Child Endangerment

If a court determines that a defendant is guilty of child endangerment, they may face various penalties, including a fine of up to $3,000, a prison sentence of up to one year, or both, as stated by state law. However, if the harm inflicted upon a minor is severe and causes significant harm, more severe punishment may be imposed.

If a child is endangered and suffers substantial harm to their mental, physical, or emotional well-being or dies as a result, the criminal penalties in Minnesota become more severe. The offender may face a fine of up to $10,000, a prison sentence of up to five years, or both. It may be helpful to consult with a Minnesota lawyer who is familiar with the penalties for child endangerment and how to minimize them.

Can Have a Child in the Car Impact the DWI Case in Minneapolis?

Having a child present when drunk driving can lead to a charge of child endangerment. That said, it can also result in additional penalties if you are found guilty of DWI. This is because having a child present in the car is considered to be an “aggravating factor” according to state DWI laws.

Aggravating factors are important. While first-time DWI offenders typically face lower consequences for a conviction, they could face steeper penalties if there are any aggravating factors present. Some of the aggravating factors in state DWI cases include:

  • Recent DWI convictions
  • Refusal to submit to a chemical test
  • Child passenger
  • Accidents with injuries
  • High blood alcohol concentration (BAC)

For the purposes of DWI prosecutions, the State of Minnesota considers a child to be any person under the age of 16. However, having a child passenger will not serve as an aggravating factor in every case. If the person accused of DWI is close in age to the passenger, it will not be used as an aggravating factor. The person charged with DWI must be at least 36 months older than their passenger for it to count as an aggravating factor.

Having a child present when driving drunk will only serve as an aggravating factor once per incident. That means a person with multiple children in the car will only face one aggravating factor if they are charged with DWI. An experienced DWI attorney could help explain how these aggravating factors might impact your case.

Can Prosecutors Dismiss Child Endangerment Laws?

Facing an arrest for both DWI and child endangerment can be overwhelming for anyone—especially if you have never faced any criminal charges before. While a conviction could alter the shape of your life forever, there is no guarantee your case will ever result in that outcome. In fact, it could be possible to see the charges against you dismissed by the prosecution.

The state has the power to bring these charges. It also has the power to dismiss them. While prosecutors are usually aggressive in pursuing child endangerment cases, there are times when they agree to dismiss a charge rather than take it to trial. This is most likely in cases where the chances of a conviction are low.

Your DWI defense attorney could fight to have all of the charges against you defense, but you will need a strong strategy to make that outcome a reality. There are plenty of defense options that could help you get a favorable outcome in your case. These include challenging the legality of your traffic stop or the results of your breath test.

Understanding the DWI Statute

A critical aspect of these cases is that a person likely must be convicted of DWI to be found guilty of child endangerment. If a jury determines that a driver was not impaired beyond a reasonable doubt, they are unlikely to have grounds to also convict them of putting a child passenger at risk. That means it is helpful to understand the state’s DWI statute when considering these offenses.

DWI is governed by Minnesota Statute Section 169A. Under the statute, it is against the law for a person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while impaired. When it comes to impairment, the state has seven different options to make their case. These include when:

  1. the person is under the influence of alcohol;
  2. the person is under the influence of a controlled substance;
  3. the person is under the influence of an intoxicating substance and the person knows or has reason to know that the substance has the capacity to cause impairment;
  4. the person is under the influence of a combination of any two or more of the elements named in clauses (1) to (3);
  5. the person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of the motor vehicle is 0.08 or more;
  6. the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle and the person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating, or being in physical control of the commercial motor vehicle is 0.04 or more; or
  7. the person’s body contains any amount of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II, or its metabolite, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol.

Talk to Attorney Gerald Miller About a Child Endangerment Case

If you are facing charges of DWI and child endangerment, it is crucial that you seek out legal counsel as soon as possible. The sooner you talk to a lawyer, the more likely you are to build a strong defense against these charges.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to help you fight back against these charges. Our firm understands what is at stake when these charges are filed, and we will work tirelessly to help you secure a fair outcome. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Related Content: Minnesota DWI With Kids in the Car: What Now?


About the author

Kyle Dreger

Kyle Dreger is a skilled DUI/DWI and Criminal Defense lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. Kyle has received his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He is also a professionally trained basketball player.

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