On May 11, 2015, a Bluefield, Virginia school bus driver who was arrested for DUI back in January 2015 was indicted for 22 counts of child endangerment and one count of operating a commercial vehicle while intoxicated. According to police, Stephanie Ann Lowe was arrested in January after finishing her school bus route and was found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .21%. The article in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph goes on to state that her BAC was more than twice the legal limit of .08%.
DUI for Commercial Drivers in Virginia
Commercial drivers must obey a different set rules for driving in Virginia. They often have to undergo rigorous physicals and stringent testing in order to obtain their commercial driver’s licenses. They also often have different endorsements on their licenses for air brakes and the like. Likewise, commercial drivers in Virginia are subject to different standards for DUI.
- The BAC limit for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is .04% as opposed to .08%. Ms. Lowe’s alleged BAC of .21% is actually more than five times the legal limit, rather than just twice the legal limit as stated in the article mentioned above.
- Commercial drivers face more severe penalties, including a three-year suspension of their CDL if convicted of DUI while transporting hazardous materials and a potential lifetime suspension for a second DUI while a CDL driver.
What is the Relationship Between Child Endangerment Laws and DUI Laws?
Virginia’s DUI laws already contain provisions that are used as aggravators where children are in the vehicle at the time of the infraction. Virginia law provides for stiffer penalties and fines when a child is in the vehicle. You will serve an extra mandatory five days in jail and pay between an additional $500 and $1000 in fines if convicted. If this is your second conviction involving DUI and children, you will also be sentenced to a minimum of an additional 80 hours of community service.
It doesn’t end there, however, as you can see in the above story. In and of itself, a DUI charge with children in the car does not necessarily amount to an additional charge of child endangerment.
What Causes a Charge of Child Endangerment in a DUI Case?
Separate charges of child endangerment can be brought when the actions of a parent or guardian are so gross, wanton, and culpable so as to rise to a disregard for human life. For example, if you were to get behind the wheel while with a minor passenger with a BAC of .25% and then proceed to run through multiple stop signs and speed in excess of 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit on crowded roads, you could conceivably be charged with child endangerment in addition to being charged with an aggravated DUI. Child endangerment is a Class Six felony in Virginia and provides for between one and five years in prison with fines of up to $2500 if convicted. It is just as serious as a DUI, if not more so, because it is a felony on the first offense.
Both DUI and child endangerment are serious charges and certain situations could lead to a DUI charge along with a child endangerment charge. You need the best defense possible to protect your rights. If you are facing either of these charges in Northern Virginia, Jad Sarsour is ready to help begin your defense. Please give him a call at (571) 315-2639 to put his years of experience and dedication to work for you now.