If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI offense and are worried about additional penalties because a child was in the car with you, you deserve to be represented by an experienced defense attorney who knows how to handle these types of cases.
Most people are aware that driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense in Colorado, but an alleged offender can face additional criminal charges if any of their passengers is a child. Under Colorado state law, a person who commits a DUI crime involving a child can also be prosecuted for child abuse.
A child abuse charge will be in addition to any underlying DUI charges, and the crime may be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether the child was injured. Child abuse convictions can have profound long-term effects on the lives of alleged offenders in addition to the consequences of a DUI conviction.
If you have been arrested for an alleged drunk or drugged driving crime while you had a child passenger in the greater Colorado Springs area, do not take the criminal charges lightly. Prosecutors take these types of crimes very seriously and will aggressively pursue maximum punishments, which is why it will be critical for you to retain legal counsel.
I have the experience necessary to fight the charges you face. My firm, Christian A. Schwaner, P.C. gets results for people just like you in Colorado Springs and across the state. To schedule a free consultation, contact me today at (719) 577-9700.
What are the specific laws involved and how are they applied?
Under Colorado Revised Statute § 18-6-401(1)(a), a person commits child abuse if they cause an injury to a child, permit a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child, or engage in a continued pattern of conduct that results in the death of or serious bodily injury to a child. The classification of a child abuse charge in connection to a drunk or drugged driving crime usually depends on whether the driver was involved in an accident or was simply pulled over.
When a person is arrested for DUI as the result of a routine traffic stop without being involved in a crash, then child abuse is usually charged as a misdemeanor. Under Colorado Revised Statute § 18-6-401(7)(b)(I), an act of child abuse in which an alleged offender acts knowingly or recklessly is a class 2 misdemeanor, while Colorado Revised Statute § 18-6-401(7)(b)(II) provides that an act of child abuse in which an alleged offender acts with criminal negligence is a class 3 misdemeanor.
Colorado Revised Statute § 18-6-401(7)(a) establishes different classifications when death or injury results from child abuse. If a child dies because an alleged offender acted knowingly or recklessly, child abuse is a class 2 felony, but the crime becomes a class 3 felony if the alleged offender acted with criminal negligence.
If a child suffers serious bodily injury because an alleged offender acted knowingly or recklessly, child abuse is a class 3 felony. When the serious bodily injury is the result of an alleged offender acting with criminal negligence, child abuse is a class 4 felony.
What are the penalties if convicted?
Any child abuse charge in connection to a drunk or drugged driving offense is a separate offense. The consequences of a conviction for this crime could be in addition to whatever punishments are ordered for a DUI conviction.
In general, the possible penalties a person can face will depend on how their child abuse charge has been classified. In most cases, the possible consequences of a conviction are as follows:
- Class 3 Misdemeanor — Up to six months in jail and fine of $50 to $750
- Class 2 Misdemeanor — Three to 12 months in jail and fine of $250 to $1,000
- Class 4 Felony — Two to six years in prison and fine of $2,000 to $500,000
- Class 3 Felony — Four to 12 years in prison and fine of $3,000 to $750,000
- Class 2 Felony — Eight to 24 years in prison and fine of $5,000 to $1 million
Another consequence of a child abuse conviction is that the charge will be reported to the Colorado Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) and prompt an investigation that could affect an alleged offender’s parental rights. Child abuse convictions can also appear on criminal records and have significant impact on employment, housing, and professional licensing applications.
Defending against charges
The specific statutory language relating to a child abuse charge can be very important to a criminal case. The way child abuse crimes are classified is dictated by whether an alleged offender acted knowingly or recklessly, or with criminal negligence. These are considered degrees of culpability, and the Colorado Revised Statutes provide specific definitions for these culpable mental states.
In Colorado, a person acts with criminal negligence “when, through a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise,” they fail to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that will occur or exists. A person acts recklessly when they consciously disregard “a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists.” A person acts knowingly or willfully when they are aware of their conduct and the result such conduct is likely to produce.
In many cases, a defense attorney can argue for a reduction in charges simply by pointing out that an alleged offender did not satisfy the statutory definition relating to the alleged crime.
Contact Christian A. Schwaner – A Former Prosecutor Who Knows The System
Were you been arrested for DUI in Colorado Springs while you had a child passenger? Do not say anything to authorities until you have legal representation. You should not assume that just because you were charged with a certain degree of misdemeanor felony child abuse in Colorado that those charges are set in stone.
Christian A. Schwaner, P.C. has more than two decades of experience fighting DUI charges in Colorado. Call (719) 577-9700 or contact us online to have our attorney provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free consultation.