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Ohio Revised Code 2919.22(C)(1): Endangering Children and DUI

Child in Car

What Does This Charge Mean?

A DUI offense is serious enough with its own penalties, but the addition of a child endangerment enhancement makes the penalties you will face much worse. Ohio law provides that no person “shall create a substantial risk to the health or safety of [a] child, by violating a duty of care, protection, or support.” One substantial risk to the health or safety of child is protected against by Ohio Revised Code section 2919.22(C)(1) which states, “No person shall operate a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley within this state in violation of division (A) of section 4511.19 of the Revised Code [(driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs)] when one or more children under eighteen years of age are in the vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley.” Endangering a child means that you exposed a child to psychological, emotional, or physical abuse by driving under the influence while the child was in the car. Under this law, it does not matter whether or not the child in question was your child or not. Even if no actual physical harm was caused to the child or there was no accident as a result of your driving under the influence, you are being charged with creating the “risk” of physical harm to the minor child. Under Ohio law, you can still be charged separately with the DUI offense as well as the child endangerment offense based on that DUI charge.

The penalties that you could face for child endangerment while driving under the influence range from a first-degree misdemeanor that carries with it a jail sentence of up to 180 days, up to a second-degree felony that can put you in prison for up to 8 years. A DUI arrest with a child present in the car will be a first-degree misdemeanor, while if the child was seriously injured and you have a previous child endangerment charge on your record, you will be charged with a fifth-degree felony that can be punished by a fine of up to $2,500, up to 12 months in jail, or both. If the child was seriously injured in the wreck and you already have a previous DUI charge with children in the car, you will be charged with a fourth-degree felony for child endangerment which carries with it a fine of up to $5,000, up to 18 months in jail, or both. These penalties are aside from the consequences for the DUI offense itself as O.R.C. section 2919.22(C)(1) specifically states that “a person may be convicted at the same trial or proceeding of a violation of this division and a violation of division (A) of section 4511.19 of the Revised Code [(drunk driving)] that constitutes the basis of the charge of the violation of this division.” Furthermore, for the purposes of punishment and your sentencing, the child endangerment offense will be considered as a second DUI/OVI. Lastly, the court can also suspend your driver’s license for a year, without any possibility of being granted limited driving privileges if you have two or more prior offenses, as a result of this child endangerment charge.

Furthermore, if you are convicted of the child endangerment enhancement as well as the charge for driving under the influence, it is very likely that the child endangerment conviction will lead to an investigation by Ohio’s child protective services as a result.

How Can You Be Charged with this Offense?

When you are arrested for a DUI offense, it can be enhanced with an additional charge of child endangerment. You can be charged with child endangerment if you are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and there is at least one child under the age of 18 in your car when you are arrested. Under Ohio law, you may not create any “substantial risk to the health or safety of the child by violating a duty of care, protection, or support.” The child endangerment statute, Ohio Revised Code section 2919.22, includes a section, 2919.22(C)(1), specifically forbidding the operation of vehicle in Ohio while under the influence of alcohol or drugs while any minor children under the age of 18 are present in the vehicle. Essentially, you will face an additional charge of child endangerment pretty much any time you are arrested for a DUI offense and there are any children in your vehicle under the age of 18.

What Should You Do If You Have Been Charged With This Offense?

If you have been charged with child endangerment in addition to your DUI offense, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Ohio that has experience dealing with DUI offenses as well as child endangerment offenses based on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The fact that you are accused of endangering a child also generally ensures rigorous enforcement by the prosecution and makes it much less likely that the judge or prosecution will reduce or drop your charges because of the inclusion of the child endangerment enhancement. As a result of the harsh penalties that you will face for these charges and the pressure on the prosecution to aggressively prosecute those who endanger children, it is vitally important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney with a record of successfully defending against allegations of endangering children who can fight for you and potentially reduce the penalties, or prevent the prosecution from convicting you for the DUI offense, which can also prevent you from being prosecuted for the child endangerment charge. Preventing your conviction for the underlying DUI offense is often the strategy for defending against the child endangerment as it is based solely on your charge for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A conviction for child endangerment can cause you to lose your current job, struggle to find a good job in the future, have difficulty with any professional licenses, and have difficulty with any immigration or naturalization proceedings. The key to limiting yourself to the least severe penalties possible or potentially having your charges dropped is making sure that you hire the most experienced and highest quality criminal defense attorneys to represent you. Hiring the right Ohio defense attorneys to represent you is your opportunity to prevent yourself from being found guilty of two crimes in the same court proceeding for the same drunk driving arrest.