Child Endangerment While Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

The passing of "Melanie's Law" by the Massachusetts State Legislature in October 2005 created the new crime of Child Endangerment While Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. 

Massachusetts DUI Laws criminalize operation of a motor vehicle if the operator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and has as a passenger a child 14 years of age or younger.  The general reference to "motor vehicle" is obviously considered to be a vehicle, but also includes other vehicles, such as a motorcycle or boat.

The penalties that may be imposed for violation of the crime of Child Endangerment While OUI / DUI Alcohol or Drugs are:
  • 1st Offense: 90 days to 2.5 years imprisonment in the House of Corrections, with fines of $1,000 to $5,000.  The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will also suspend the person's license for 1 year.
  • 2nd Offense: 3-5 years in state prison or 6 months to 2.5 years imprisonment in the House of Corrections; with fines of $5,000 to $10,000.  The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will also suspend the person's license for 3 years.
Notably, if a person is arrested for an OUI/DUI in Massachusetts and has a child under 14 in the car, he could technically be charged with Driving Under the Influence and Child Endangerment While Driving Under the Influence. 

Although it is true the "Double Jeopardy" prohibit the prosecution of multiple offenses for the same crime, double jeopardy would not be implicated in such a circumstances because these two crimes do not contain the same identical elements. The crime of Child Endangerment While OUI carries the additional element of having with the operator a passenger who is 14 years old or younger.

A person charged with this crime should also be aware that, where a minor child is involved in the commission of this offense, it is likely that the Department of Child & Family Services would also get involved and conduct an independent investigation concerning the health and welfare of the child, as well as the child's present home circumstances.  In extreme cases, it would also be possible that the child would temporarily be removed from the home and/or placed with a family member or designated to care by DCF pending the resolution of any investigation.

Particularly since the passing of harsher drunk driving laws in Massachusetts since "Melanie's Law", persons charged with any Massachusetts DUI / OUI or Related Crimes should immediately Consult with a Boston DUI / OUI Lawyer.

Attorney Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for consultation, and can be contacted by Clicking Here for a Free Consultation or at 617-325-9500.