In addition to charges of driving under the influence, she is also accused of eight counts of child neglect.
Fort Lauderdale DUI defense lawyers know that while this is an extreme example, it’s not uncommon to face additional charges in DUI cases when children are in the vehicle at the time of your arrest.
Child neglect, as defined in Florida Statute 827.03 is a caregiver’s failure or omission to provide care, supervision and services necessary to maintain a child’s mental and physical health or failure to take reasonable efforts to protect a child from abuse, neglect or exploitation. This also means that if you are intoxicated behind the wheel, there are children in the car and you have another adult with you, that adult may also be charged with neglect.
In this case, the only adult in the car was a 32-year-old woman, who was reportedly involved in a minor crash. Police were called, and eight children were in the vehicle between the ages of 10 months and 14 years. Media reports indicate the woman’s blood alcohol level was 0.166 and she told officers that she was on her way to a nightclub.
This raises another point: You are under no obligation to tell the officer where you are coming from, where you are going or how much you’ve had to drink. More often than not, this only serves to hurt your case.
It makes the stakes of your case higher, as not only are these likely to come into play in terms of child custody, but the charge is also a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine – for each charge.
In some cases, the best defense in these scenarios is to prove that you did not meet the legal definition of intoxication at the time of your arrest. In order to do this, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Legal intoxication means that you had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent at the time of your arrest. Police have a number of ways in which they try to prove that you were intoxicated, the most damning of which are often breathalyzer or blood tests.
It’s important to note that in Florida, we have what is called “implied consent.” That means that if you refuse to submit to chemical testing, you will automatically lose your license for six months. But you have to weigh the consequences here. If you know for certain you could pass the test, go ahead and take it. However, if you have children in the vehicle with you, it’s important to understand that you will likely be facing additional child neglect charges, which are felonies. In these situations, you may opt not to take the test, take the automatic six months-suspension. You may still be charged with neglect, but your defense attorney will have a better chance at fighting the DUI charge – and therefore the neglect charges – if you give prosecutors less evidence with which to work.
The same goes for submission to field sobriety tests. These are highly subjective and you are not required by state law to submit to it. However, you should understand that your refusal will likely draw the officer’s suspicion. So if you are certain you will pass it, go ahead and take it. If not, it’s best to request to contact your attorney before submitting to any testing or answering any questions.
If you’ve been arrested, call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. The Ansara Law Firm serves Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Mom with eight kids in car charged with DUI, neglect, By Cindy Swirko, The Gainesville Sun