September 28, 2023
A DUI conviction is devastating. It can be life-altering in many ways. That said, if you are arrested for a DUI with a child passenger, you’ll face a whole new level of ramifications.
You are not only subject to severe criminal and civil penalties of an underlying DUI, (an average cost of $13,000). You will likely incur the separate, and potentially much more severe charge of a child abuse. Under Colorado child abuse law, driving drunk with a child in the vehicle is grounds for the count.
If you are facing child abuse charges related to a DUI, a Colorado child abuse defense attorney with experience in DUIs is who you’re going to need in your corner. In the meantime, today’s post shares information on DUI-related child abuse charges, and what can happen upon conviction, including losing your child.
What Counts as Colorado Child Abuse When It Comes to DUI
In Colorado, child abuse is generally defined as an act which causing (or threatens to cause) injury to a child’s health or life. Even simply permitting a child to be unreasonably placed in a bad situation can leave you open to child abuse charges.
Specifically outlined in the statute, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a child passenger under the age of 16 is considered child abuse, too.
Penalties to Expect If Convicted of DUI Child Abuse in Colorado
Criminal penalties for DUI child abuse ultimately depend on whether your child is injured as a result of your driving under the influence. There are three scenarios the law specifically addresses: simply having the child in the vehicle, when a child injury is directly related to the DUI, and when driving under the influence is the cause of death to the child.
Child in the Car, But No Injury
If the child was not injured, this is a misdemeanor, and is punishable by 3 months to one year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Injury of a Child in the Car
Child injury as a result of drunk or drugged driving is considered a Class 3 Felony from criminal negligence. Penalties include 3-6 years in Colorado prison plus mandatory parole and a fine of $2,000-$500,000. Recklessness can enhance your prison sentence to 4-12 years.
Death of a Child in the Car
When a child dies as a result of drunk driving, you will face Class 3 Felony charges which carry 4-12 years jail time a mandatory five-year parole, and a $750,000 maximum fine. Recklessness in this scenario can double your prison sentence.
As if you weren’t paying enough in prison time and fines, there are a number of collateral consequences associated with the crime.
Collateral Consequences of a Colorado Child Abuse Conviction
In addition to the severe criminal penalties, you will also face any number of these significant civil consequences:
- Mandatory parenting classes
- Mandatory drug and alcohol testing
- If child custody is shared, loss of custody or visitation rights
- Mandatory disclosure on employment applications
- Loss of the right to possess firearms
Further, in Colorado, any allegations of child abuse can spur an investigation by state child protective services.
The Colorado Child Abuse Investigation Process
Very rarely does a DUI child abuse charge go without also triggering an investigation by the Colorado Department of Human Services (DHS), regardless of whether you are convicted. This process is stressful for the entire family to say the very least.
Even if acquitted criminally, when the investigation independently finds that you committed child abuse, you wil be entered into the Colorado State child abuse registry. This system is used by organizations involved in child welfare such as daycare centers, schools and community organizations.
Fortunately, charges of DUI child abuse do not equate to a convcition. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged offenses, a number of defense strategies may be available to help your case.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.