When is a New Mexico DWI Considered Child Abuse?

New Mexico DWI child abuseKids can’t choose who drives them around, and while we often hear stories of older children calling 911 or the police when an adult driver is intoxicated, those cases are likely the exception to the rule. For example, the latest averted New Mexico DWI tragedy explains why DWI child endangerment is such a concern for MADD and other organizations.

MADD has certain criteria it uses to rate each state for drunk driving prevention efforts, like all-offender ignition interlock requirements and DWI child endangerment laws. New Mexico DWI law has no provisions for child endangerment, which factored into the state’s low rating in 2016. But, the state does have the ability to charge a DWI driver with felony child abuse if a minor is present in the vehicle at the time of arrest.

Section 66-8-102(A) New Mexico Statutes Annotated clearly states: “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor to drive a vehicle within this state.” It’s also a crime for “a person knowingly, intentionally, or negligently, and without justifiable cause, (to cause or permit) a child to be placed in a situation that may endanger the child’s life or health.”

If a person is found guilty of felony child abuse, they will face at least three years in prison. If an injury to or death of a minor occurs, the minimum prison sentence is 18 years.

While technically New Mexico DWI law does not include protections for minors, the odds are that if you drink and drive with a child present, you’ll find yourself in much bigger legal problems, including felony child abuse charges. Not only will you face prison, but other measures may be taken to ensure the safety of those children, too. Your children, or those who are entrusted in your care, cannot tell you to drive sober, call a taxi or drive themselves. It is your responsibility to BE responsible when you’re driving, to set the example, and to get everyone home safely.

Ignition Interlock Devices on School Buses?

Should school buses have ignition interlock devices?A school bus driver’s main job is keeping the children they are charged with safe from dangers on the road. What happens if the bus driver is intoxicated? In Rhode Island, it may mean an ignition interlock violation.

There is legislation in the works to require ignition interlock devices in school buses across the state. The law would be the first of its kind in the country, although other states have considered the idea in the past. The legislation stems from the DUI arrest of a school bus driver in Westerly, RI. The bus driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading of almost three times the legal limit at the time of her arrest.

Last year, Rhode Island expanded ignition interlock access for all convicted drunk drivers. That move allowed even first-time offenders the ability to continue driving their own cars, maintain employment and fulfill household, legal, medical and educational obligations. In exchange, the offender only needs to remain sober behind the wheel.

Currently, ignition interlock devices are credited with a seven percent reduction in fatal DUI incidents across the country.

The school bus ignition interlock requirement would target all school bus drivers, even those that have no history of alcohol misuse or those who don’t drink. All school bus drivers would be required to use the devices as directed, which typically means they submit a breath sample upon starting their vehicle and then periodically as they drive. What may seem a small inconvenience turns into a new world of safety for our smallest citizens, those who have little choice over who is driving them around, not to mention how much alcohol those adults may have consumed.

The new law would allow parents, caregivers, teachers and school administrators the peace of mind that comes with a sober driver. It would also be an example for all other schools to follow to ensure the safety of our children.

Mississippi’s DUI Child Endangerment Issue

Mississippi DUI child endangermentMADD released its annual review of state laws early, just in time for the dangerous DUI holiday season. Not only that but the ranking system was updated, reducing some states’ ranks by a half star, while giving others a better idea of where they can improve their rank. Mississippi DUI laws are some of those that can now see the steps needed to be at the top of the ladder when it comes to keeping its residents safe and happy.

Mississippi DUI child endangerment laws are the biggest cause for concern, and the steps that need to be taken next. MADD recommends a felony conviction if a child under the age of 16 is present in a vehicle with a convicted drunk driver. In New York, Leandra’s law complies with that sentiment, along with ignition interlock devices for all offenders. Since Mississippi meets other criteria that New York does, it isn’t too much of a reach to increase the DUI child endangerment penalty as well.

Currently, Mississippi will only charge an offender with a felony DUI child endangerment charge if:

  • That conviction is the third time they’ve been convicted of the crime,
  • If there was not a serious injury or death in any of those instances, or
  • If a death occurred in any incident.
  • Oddly enough, Mississippi still allows drinking while driving in some cases, causing confusion about how dedicated the state is to DUI prevention. That doesn’t mean you should toss back a brew while heading home from a bar – the law is outdated and will hopefully be rewritten soon to uphold the rest of the anti-DUI efforts in the state.

Mississippi DUI laws are considered some of the toughest in the U.S. The state takes its job of protecting residents seriously, including enacting an all-offender ignition interlock law in 2015. That law and others that are endorsed by MADD have resulted in a strong five-star ranking. More than that, Mississippi stands as a fine example of how a state can remain dedicated to the safety of its residents, implementing tough policies and come out on the other side even stronger than before.

Are Tipsy Toddlers a New DWI Risk?

Toddler DWI riskIt is a tough job hunting down DWI drivers and law enforcement officers are often unfairly portrayed as the bad guys. We have seen too many conflicting representations of police officers in the news lately, so we share the joy of this toddler who was “pulled over” by law enforcement and tested for a high blood milk concentration by an officer. We assume the toddler’s speech may have been slurred or that she may have forgotten her license at home – very similar reasoning behind why we might be tested for a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) under similar situations.

Toddlers pulled over in streets nationwide are developing an understanding that law enforcement officers exist to keep ourselves and the roads safe. All in good fun, these police officers are concerned about demonstrating the lighter side of their job, while remaining a present force in the community.

It’s all good in the ‘hood – the toddler learned a powerful lesson about DWI, one that will last a lifetime.

We all know that feeling of dread as the flashing blue lights behind us signal we’ve done something wrong. Toddlers see the flashing lights of  law enforcement differently than grownups. If we got as excited as a toddler does when seeing those lights… well, we might be questioned about posing a DWI risk on the roads. Being pulled over by law enforcement means that we’re in trouble for driving in such a way that is worthy of a “time out”. That feeling, combined with stomach-churning anxiety, is only the beginning of a traffic stop… especially if we’ve been drinking. Then we can look forward to court, community service and even an ignition interlock device. Take a tip from a toddler and only drink non-alcoholic beverages if you’ll be driving, and reward yourself with a nap once you get home.

We love our police officers, but we’ll just leave the hand clapping to the toddlers and let law enforcement enjoy the unconditional love of our littlest motorists.  It’s never too late to teach our toddlers the rules of the road, especially when a DWI is a concern. If you see a tipsy toddler in your neighborhood, call your local law enforcement immediately. She might need a time out from the road!

DUI Child Endangerment and Your IID

DUI child endangerment IIDEndangering a child is one of the worst crimes imaginable. Driving under the influence (DUI) with a child present shows a true lack of consideration for the mental and physical safety of a child – someone who really has no choice but to be driven around by an intoxicated adult. DUI child endangerment laws are the result of too many kids being killed or injured at the hands of an adult who didn’t call for a safe ride home. In many states, those laws include an ignition interlock requirement if you are found guilty, even for a first offense.

Aggravating circumstances increase the consequences a DUI. Examples of aggravating circumstances are child endangerment and causing injury, death or property damage. Not all states require an interlock for a first-offense DUI, but when aggravating factors are present, an IID requirement is more likely, as are jail time and higher fines.

Not only that, but in states like Oklahoma, Mississippi and Texas, DUI child endangerment is also a guaranteed felony conviction, regardless of an offender’s criminal record. A felony will affect your life forever, even if no one was harmed and your only crime was driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle.

As adults, we are tasked with helping children grow into healthy and responsible adults. That task is never clearer than when we’re tempted to drive after a few drinks, whether kids are present or not. Being an example for others means we don’t drink or text and drive, and we keep our seat belts fastened at all times. An ignition interlock is a consequence for those adults who have made a choice to drive under the influence of alcohol. The device is also a way to ensure that children who cannot choose their driver are protected from any further drunk driving incidents.

Back to School: College, Underage Drinking and DUI

College, DUI and underage drinkingCollege students have a lot to look forward to as the year begins, and a lot to watch out for, especially those who are under 21. Underage drinking is a big deal during the college years. It is estimated that each year, 1,825 college students (age 18-24) are killed in alcohol-related accidents, including DUIs. Unfortunately, college means there is easy access to alcohol, no matter how old the person is reaching for the glass.

All states have a zero tolerance policy toward underage drinking and driving.

Laws have been established to prevent a minor from possessing or purchasing alcohol, but it still happens regularly. The temptation at that age, especially as other college-age peers are drinking may be too much to resist. In states like West Virginia, there is a possibility that even after a DUI, the criminal charge can be expunged in many circumstances. The tradeoff for the expungement is enrolling in the state’s ignition interlock program and not incurring any further drunk driving convictions. Pennsylvania and Tennessee offer similar programs, as do many other states, especially if the DUI was without any aggravating circumstances.

It may also be important for other college students to remember that allowing a minor to drink or providing alcohol to a minor is a crime, with fines and jail time in many cases. Plus, you could face consequences from your college or university, too.

As a new year begins for college students, now is a great time to gently remind those students that underage drinking and driving is dangerous. It can affect more than just the person behind the wheel, and more than just during the time that person is driving. Instead of taking those risks, anyone in college can understand the logic behind staying sober and avoiding the problems of underage drinking entirely.

Kids and Car Breathalyzers

kids and car breathalyzersAs parents, we try our best to make sure our children’s needs come first. We also like to indulge them, especially when they imitate us during the course of the day. It isn’t uncommon to see a parent in a parked car with a small child in their lap pretending to drive. But some parents take things too far. Through the haze of intoxication, plenty of parents have actually insisted those same children go from pretending to drive to blowing into the car breathalyzer in order to circumvent the device and skip the sober driving.

That means that these parents have not only asked their children to do something illegal, but have endangered those same children.

Kids can ride in vehicles with car breathalyzers without a problem. Older kids who have a driver’s license can even use the car breathalyzer if they need to drive. However, kids must not blow into the device on behalf of the parent or any other adult. A child’s curiosity is one thing, but only an adult should actually use the device. Otherwise, that adult is putting lives in danger.

In most states circumventing a car breathalyzer by asking another person to blow into the device is punishable by removal from the program, an extension of the time requirement or further criminal charges. Asking a kid to use a breathalyzer is just asking for even more trouble, especially when the same effort could be made to find a safe way home.

There’s An Updated Maryland Social Host Law, Too!

Maryland updates its social host laws in 2016Maryland has made some major moves in its fight against alcohol-related crimes across the state this year. As the 2016 legislative session ended, the fight for an all-offender ignition interlock requirement was finally passed. Otherwise known as “Noah’s Law,” it states that a drunk driver will now be required to install an interlock no matter the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that was measured or how many prior DUI convictions (if any) were found on their record.

This is a huge step forward for Maryland, but that’s not all. The Maryland General Assembly also passed a new law regarding social host issues in the state, making the responsibility for keeping alcohol away from underage minors fall on the shoulders of the more permissive adults in the state. The new Maryland social host laws increase the fines that a social host offender will pay if they:

  • Willfully providing alcohol to minors who are not their children or spouse.
  • Similarly allow a minor on their private property to drink alcohol.
  • Knowingly give permission in either case to a minor who will then drive after drinking the alcohol.

Plus, that adult who violates the Maryland social host laws will face a misdemeanor criminal charge and up to a year in jail for the crime.

With this law, Maryland has a better way of keeping alcohol out of the hands of underage minors. The state already has a pretty strict “use it and lose it” policy for underage drinkers, taking away their driver’s license if they’re convicted of a DUI and requiring an ignition interlock once privileges can be restored. With the new Maryland social host law, keeping alcohol out of the hands of those who cannot legally drink is a little easier to manage, and will certainly be a new road to more responsible driving by young adults across the state.

Time Out: Colorado School Bus Drivers and DUI Consequences

DUI bus driver in ColoradoAs parents and caregivers, we trust that when our children are headed back and forth to school, the bus driver is following all safety precautions. Of course, we see the headlines about bus drivers who have been caught doing just the opposite, like drinking and driving. As uncomfortable as that is, it is also good to know that in Colorado, a DUI is different when it happens at the hands of a bus driver, and that there are more penalties and specifics that keep those people from being even more of a danger on our roads, and especially to our children.

Bus drivers in Colorado fall under the commercial driver’s license (CDL) laws. Therefore, like truck drivers and those who transport hazardous materials, bus drivers must adhere to much stricter regulations. For instance, a regular driver is only considered legally drunk once he or she meets or exceeds a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC). For a CDL driver on the job, that BAC is set at .04 percent – or about the equivalent of one drink.

A CDL driver who is convicted of DUI faces different penalties for the crime. For instance, after a first-offense DUI, a regular driver can opt for an ignition interlock under certain circumstances. Bus or CDL drivers, however, must wait out the entire suspension length, according to their criminal sentence. School bus drivers will likely lose their job and probably have to face a few angry parents.

Nobody should be drinking and driving in any vehicle in any state. In Colorado, a DUI when you are bus driver or have a CDL is a serious criminal offense resulting in a lengthy “time out” and lasting legal and personal consequences.

Should I Let My Kid Use My Ignition Interlock?

Your kid should never use your ignition interlock for youParenting is hard, and even on the best days, we can all make mistakes. For a parent who has a drunk driving conviction and an ignition interlock requirement, you are not only taking responsibility for your mistake with the court or DMV, but, also with your child. For most, that conviction and interlock are enough to make big life changes, especially when you realize your kid is watching you and taking notes for their driving future. For other parents, however, a DUI and an interlock are just another obstacle to get around, and that can quickly lead into DUI child endangerment charges, especially if you let your kid use your interlock for you.

Letting your child, or insisting they use your ignition interlock device for you gives a true indication of your commitment to sober driving. On top of being intoxicated, you are allowing your child to break the law for you, to bend the rules and to put their own life in danger. Parenting may be difficult, but, an ignition interlock requirement is one area where the decision-making should be easy.

The only reason you should ever let your child use your ignition interlock device is if they are legally able to drive your car. Teenage drivers can understand the mistake that led to an interlock, and they can use the device just like you do when they are driving your car.

In any other situation, there is no reason or excuse to let a kid use your ignition interlock device. The device is there to ensure the sobriety of the person who is driving the vehicle, and when you allow your child to blow into the device so that you can drink and drive, again, it only proves that you are a danger to others on the road, to yourself, and to the kid you have sworn to love and protect, forever.