A school bus driver was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol while driving a school bus with 31 students on board. Carole Ann Etheridge was arrested in August 2017 after another driver reported her erratic driving. She was stopped while at the local middle school and was removed from the bus.
Etheridge had a large bottle of tequila, some small bottles of vodka, and prescription pills in her purse. She was charged with one count of DUI and 16 counts of endangering a child. If you were arrested for DUI and had a child in the car at the time, you could face a DUI Child Endangering charge.
An experienced Georgia DUI attorney can challenge the charges against you to reduce or even dismiss your charges.
When Can I be Charged with DUI Child Endangerment?
A charge of DUI is serious enough on its own, but if you had a minor under the age of 14 with you at the time of your arrest, you could face this additional charge. You can also be charged for every child you have in the car, quickly adding up the penalties you can face as a result of your conviction.
In Etheridge's case, although there were 31 students on board the bus, only 16 were under the age of 14. As a result, she faced 16 counts of endangering a child.
The Issue of Merger
Merger is a legal term meaning certain charges may be combined if they are so similar or one charge is the lesser of the other. When that occurs, you are not charged for two separate crimes but only the crime into which the others merged.
However, the Georgia legislature has written the law to prevent merger of DUI Child Endangering with a DUI charge. This means that:
- Each charge will count as a separate offense for purposes of sentencing
- You may be charged for each child in the vehicle
- You can more easily be declared a habitual violator
- You are more likely to lose your driving privileges
Lack of merger can subject you to significant penalties even arising from one arrest. Our experienced Georgia DUI attorneys can defend your case.
Penalties for DUI Child Endangering
In Georgia, your first and second child endangerment convictions are treated as misdemeanors while a third is a felony. If convicted you could face the following penalties:
- 1st Offense: Up to 1 year in jail, up to a $1,000 fine
- 2nd Offense: Up to 1 year in jail, fines between $1,000 and $5,000
- 3rd Offense: Up to 5 years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine.
Understanding these penalties and how the issue of merger may affect them is crucial to your legal defense.
Consult with a DUI Attorney
If you have been arrested for DUI and DUI Child Endangering in Georgia, an experienced Georgia DUI attorney can inform you of the possible consequences of your case. Make sure your legal rights are protected.
The effects of these charges can leave a lasting impact on your life. Never assume your are guilty just because you have been charged. Contact us today for a free consultation.