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What Happens if You Get a DUI with a Child in the Car?

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Being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) can lead to serious penalties, like fines and jail time. However, these consequences can become even more severe if there was a child in the vehicle at the time of the offense. Defendants may face child endangerment charges and the child may be taken into the custody of Washington Child Protective Services (CPS).

Washington Law on DUI with a Child in the Car

According to RCW 46.61.507, law enforcement officers must make a note if any person who is arrested for a DUI violation has a child under the age of 16 in the car. When this happens, the responding officer must notify CPS if the driver was the parent, guardian, legal custodian, or sibling or half-sibling of the child.

After CPS is notified, it will conduct a welfare check to ensure that the child is safe. CPS will not take the child into its custody unless there is no other person who can take care of the child; if law enforcement can contact an agency that has the right to physical custody of the child; or if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the child should be taken into custody.

What Happens If CPS Is Notified After a DUI?

When law enforcement makes a referral to CPS, a caseworker will contact the driver to schedule an interview and perform a welfare check at the child’s home. Usually, this happens within the first 24 to 48 hours after the DUI arrest. During the first meeting, the caseworker will interview the child’s parents or guardians, check the child’s well-being, and assess the home.

If there are no previous referrals or the child does not appear to be in any danger, CPS will typically end the inquiry here. If the caseworker believes that the child is in danger or there have been previous referrals regarding the home, the CPS will continue to investigate the case. In serious cases, the child may be taken into custody.

Additional Penalties for DUI with a Child in the Car

Endangering a child is a serious offense in Washington state, and the court prosecutes this offense accordingly. If a person is arrested for DUI and had a child under the age of 16 in the car, he or she may face additional penalties. Those convicted will receive an additional six months of ignition interlock device usage and the following consequences, depending on the number of previous offenses:

A first-time DUI offender will face an additional 24 hours of incarceration and an additional fine of at least $1,000.
A second-time DUI offender will face an additional five days of incarceration and a fine of at least $2,000.
A third- or fourth-time offender will face an additional 10 days of incarceration and a fine of at least $3,000.

Work with a DUI Criminal Defense Attorney

Facing child endangerment charges and CPS inquiries on top of DUI penalties can be scary. If you are arrested on DUI charges with a child in the car, you need an attorney who can represent your case and defend your side of the story.

A DUI defense lawyer with experience handling CPS cases can help you prepare for these situations and protect the interests of you and your child. As soon as possible following the arrest, contact an attorney to discuss your next steps and plan for your CPS inquiry.

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