Arrested for a DUI with Children in the Car in Colorado Springs
Anyone who has been arrested for DUI is familiar with the serious consequences associated with a DUI conviction. If, however, the allegations include a minor child being in the car at the time of driving under the influence, then the driver will find himself in a much worse situation. In Colorado, this factual wrinkle will likely result in the charging of an additional criminal offense of child abuse. These circumstances have the potential to result in more jail time and additional evaluations and treatment related to child abuse. These penalties are in addition to the penalties associated with the driving under the influence offense.
If you or someone you love has been arrested for a DUI with a child in the car, do not hesitate to contact The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. Our founding attorney, Timothy R. Bussey, is one of only two attorneys in Colorado with the ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist Designation. He can use his in-depth knowledge of Colorado’s legal code and DUI testing to craft a strong defense on your behalf. Do not put your future in jeopardy; let a skilled trial attorney fight for your freedom. Call today at (719) 475-2555 to receive a free case evaluation.
Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute 18-6-401(2), a child is defined as a person under the age of 16. If an officer suspects you of being intoxicated while driving with a child in the car, you can face both a DUI charge and a child abuse charge.
Colorado’s legislature has enacted a broad prohibition against child abuse, even if there is no injury. Pursuant to C.R.S. §18-6-401(1), a person commits child abuse if such person:
- Causes an injury to a child’s life or health,
- Permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health,
- Engages in a continued pattern of conduct that results in malnourishment, lack of proper medical care, cruel punishment, or mistreatment, or an accumulation of injuries that ultimately results in the death of a child or serious bodily injury to a child.
In the context of an allegation of driving under the influence, an accident will play a large role in determining the severity of a child abuse charge. Colorado courts classify DUI car accidents as vehicular assault, a felony crime on its own even if the collision only involved property damage. If a child was in your vehicle, then the court may impose harsh punishments, especially if the child suffered injury. If the child suffered a "serious bodily injury," then the driver will face a felony level allegation of child abuse. If the government alleges that the "serious bodily injury" was caused by knowing or reckless behavior, then the driver will face a mandatory 10–32 years in the Department of Corrections.
Even where there is no car accident and no injuries suffered by the child, the driver is still likely to be charged with misdemeanor child abuse under the theory that driving under the influence unreasonably places a child in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child.
On its own, the DUI charge levied at you will depend on the nature of your arrest, your intoxication level, and your criminal history. If you have prior convictions for driving under the influence, the court can impose enhanced punishments. If you were involved in an accident, you face penalties for vehicular assault.
Being convicted of child abuse as well as DUI will add years and additional restrictions to your sentence. With regard to the child being injured, a Colorado Springs court will evaluate whether your actions rose to the level of criminal negligence or recklessness. “Criminal negligence” is a gross deviation from the standard of care (that a reasonable person would exercise), meaning you failed to perceive that a negative result would occur, while “recklessly” means you disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result would occur.
Here is how the penalties would play out:
- If the child was not injured (Misdemeanor): Up to one year in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
- If the child was injured due to criminal negligence (Class 4 Felony): Two to six years in state prison, mandatory parole of a minimum of three years, and/or a fine of between $2,000 to $500,000.
- If the child was injured due to recklessness (Class 3 Felony): Four to 12 years in state prison, mandatory parole of a minimum of five years, and/or a fine of between $3,000 to $750,000.
- If the child died due to criminal negligence (Class 3 Felony): Four to 12 years in state prison, mandatory parole of a minimum of five years, and/or a fine of between $3,000 to $750,000.
- If the child died due to recklessness (Class 2 Felony): Eight to 24 years in state prison, mandatory parole of a minimum of five years, and/or a fine of between $5,000 to $1,000,000.
In addition to the consequences associated with the criminal action itself, a child abuse allegation can have far-reaching consequences. Any allegations of child abuse must be reported to the Colorado Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Once reported, DHS will then require a separate investigation which may jeopardize a person’s parental rights.
Not carefully handling a DUI case that is coupled with child abuse allegations can result in lifelong repercussions. You could lose custody of your child, be limited in when and where you can see your child, and even have to register with Colorado’s child abuse registry – the TRAILS system. The TRAILS system is used by many organizations to review potential employees and determine if they have allegations or convictions for child abuse in their background. Schools, daycares, youth programs, Scouts programs, and any job that may involve children will use TRAILS. A weak defense could end with you being placed on this registry, changing the course of your career.
To avoid the consequences of both a child abuse and DUI charge, only trust your case to a skilled legal team. At The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., we specialize in getting clients reduced charges or complete dismissals. We understand how complex these cases can become, as well as how to dismantle the prosecution’s arguments. With these child endangerment cases, the underlying issue is the DUI, which we can work to defend you against.
With our more than 30 years of combined experience, we can demonstrate that:
- You were not intoxicated at the time of your arrest.
- You only showed the objective signs of intoxication.
- The arresting officer did not perform the field sobriety test correctly.
- The results of your breathalyzer test showed a false positive.
- There was no probable cause to pull you over.
- The other occupant in your vehicle was over 16 years old.
- You did not act recklessly, and your charges should be reduced.
- The child did not suffer any injuries.
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI and child abuse as a result of having a minor in the vehicle, it is vital to seek knowledgeable legal representation from a Colorado Springs DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest. The importance of fighting such serious charges cannot be overstated, and you will need a dedicated legal advocate with a history of success in defending DUI cases by your side and fighting for you.
Tim Bussey with The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., has been practicing criminal law since 1991. He has been a defense attorney, Assistant District Attorney, and active-duty Judge Advocate with the U.S. Air Force, and has the prestigious ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist Designation. If you bring your case to him, you can trust that your defense will be handled by one of the top DUI attorneys in the state. Do not give the prosecution more time to build a case against you. Call us today at (719) 475-2555 for a free consultation.