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DUI with a child passenger can bring serious charges

Drunk driving charges carry serious penalties in Pennsylvania, including license revocation, fines and potential jail time. These penalties can be enhanced under a number of circumstances. One situation that will result in a significantly stiffer sentence is having a minor under the age of 18 as a passenger when the violation occurs.

Unfortunately, the state can charge a parent with child passenger DUI after a family goes out to dinner and the parent who is driving has a few glasses of beer or wine. If the parent is convicted, the whole family usually suffers.

Under Pennsylvania law, DUI with a passenger under age 18 is a misdemeanor of the first degree. If convicted on a first offense, in addition to the other penalties imposed, the judge is required to impose a fine of at least $1,000 and order the individual to perform 100 hours ofcommunity service. On a second offense, the law requires the judge to impose a fine of at least $2,500 and sentence the individual to prison for one to six months.

With so much at stake, it often makes sense to fight these charges. As in any drunk driving case, there may be an issue whether the arresting officer had an articulable basis to pull the vehicle over in the first place. The defense can also challenge the reliability of field sobriety tests, such as the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, or the horizontal gaze nystagmus test; or challenge the accuracy of breath test evidence. An experienced DUI defense lawyer will carefully review the state's evidence and look for any inconsistencies or weaknesses.

Source: Pennsylvania General Assembly, "75 Pa. Cons. Stat. ยงยง 3803(b)(5), 3804," accessed March 20, 2017

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