A driver charged with DWI while a child is a passenger in the vehicle may be also charged with DWI with a minor passenger per N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.15(c). A driver who is ultimately found guilty of a DWI while a child is a passenger in the vehicle will face fines in excess of $1,000.00, community service and up to six months of jail time. Those penalties will be applied in addition to any loss of driving privileges and other sentencing issued upon the related drunk driving conviction.
In addition to charging a driver with DWI with a minor passenger, a driver may also be charged with endangering the welfare of a child under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a). Under this law, a child is defined as anyone under the age of sixteen years old. Endangering a child is considered to be any act that could cause the minor harm that would make the child an abused or neglected child. Depending on the level of harm determined by the court, one facing this charge can be convicted of a crime of the second or third degree.
Penalties for those convicted of endangering the welfare of a child are much more severe than the DWI with a minor passenger. A driver found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child may face as much as ten years in prison and $150,000 in fines.