On Monday, August 21st, a bus driver in Walton County Georgia was arrested for driving under the influence, along with 16 counts of DUI child endangerment.
Bus driver Carole Ann Etheridge drives a bus that transports middle and high school students to Loganville schools. Someone reported her erratic driving, and she was subsequently stopped by police officers at Loganville Middle School. The officers found a large bottle of tequila, small bottles of vodka, and prescription pills in her purse. She was terminated from her job that same day.
Although there were 31 students on the bus, Etheridge was only charged with 16 counts of child endangerment. The reason for this is that child endangerment only applies to children under the age of 14, and there were only 16 students under the age of 14 on the bus.
Everyone on the bus was a child, and since this story is newsworthy, the ages of the children do not matter from a public safety consideration. She allegedly endangered 31 students, regardless of their ages.
What Is a DUI Child Endangerment Charge?
The punishment for a DUI charge by itself is very serious, but drivers who are also charged with DUI Child Endangerment face even harsher penalties. The crime of DUI Child Endangerment does not merge with a DUI charge. Instead, it is counted as a separate offense even though it may have arisen from the same incident. Therefore, you could receive a DUI and a DUI Child Endangerment for the same incident, and that would be treated as a 2nd DUI in 5 years.
In this situation, Ms. Etheridge has been charged with one count of DUI and 16 counts of DUI Child Endangerment. In Georgia, a person who has been charged with a 4th Georgia DUI will be prosecuted for a Felony DUI. As a result, Carole Ann Etheridge will be facing a felony prosecution and the possibility of going to prison for up to seventeen years.
Furthermore, Georgia treats people with more than 3 DUI's in a five-year period as a habitual violator. Ms. Etheridge would meet these criteria and could be subject to her license being suspended for five years. Technically, Ms. Etheridge is facing a twenty-two-year license suspension because of the DUI, the sixteen counts of Child Endangerment, and the Habitual Violator suspension (5 years).
We are very thankful that no one was injured during this incident because that would have been a tragedy. Even still, Ms. Etheridge is in a huge amount of trouble and needs the best Georgia DUI Attorney she can find. She is facing severe Georgia DUI Penalties.