As reported in the AJC, a Valdosta school bus driver was charged with a DUI while having forty-four students on board. As a result, the police will charge her with forty-four counts of DUI Child Endangerment, plus the DUI as well.
What the article does not explain are the two interesting legal issues that will have to be resolved.
Each Charge of Child Endangerment in Georgia is Considered a Separate DUI Offense:
Our legislature has changed the DUI statute to increase the punishment for people convicted of DUI while having children in their vehicle. What this means is that a person can be convicted of multiple DUI offenses from just one arrest. It also means that a person can be punished for more than one DUI from just one arrest. The school bus driver in the AJC story is facing forty-five DUI charges.
A Fourth Georgia DUI is a Felony:
Since 2008, any person charged with a 4th Georgia DUI will be convicted of a felony. The question that has not been resolved by our appellate courts is whether a person charged with a DUI with three or more kids in their car will be prosecuted for a felony offense from one arrest.
Felony or Not, She is in an Incredible Amount of Trouble:
Even if “only” charged with misdemeanor offenses, she is facing up to forty-five years in prison. She can be sentenced to forty-five consecutive 12-month sentences.
Although a forty-five-year sentence is unlikely, I would expect most courts would sentence her (if convicted) to a five-year sentence with at least the first year in jail. She would also be declared a habitual violator and would, therefore, lose her driver's license for five years.
The accused in this news story needs a top-rated Georgia DUI Attorney. She also needs to re-evaluate her life decisions because to put children at risk behind the wheel of a school bus could have resulted in tragedy.
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