While all impaired driving is a crime, some DUI offenses are inherently worse than others. In Arizona, higher fines and more jail time are reserved for drivers who demonstrate an especially reckless disregard for the safety of people on the road.
- High BAC offenses. The more impaired you are, the more dangerous you are. Thus, if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .15 or higher, it is considered an Extreme DUI. Over .20 is Super Extreme, an offense carrying severe penalties.
- Driving while suspended. If your license was revoked, being arrested for DUI is a very serious offense.
But one of the crimes which is sure to tip the balance against you is Child Endangerment. If you drive impaired with a passenger under 15 years of age in Arizona, you are guilty of a form of child abuse. You will find yourself facing:
- At least a year in prison
- Large fines ($1,500 on top of regular DUI fines)
- Long term license revocation
- Mandatory ignition interlock
In addition, as Child Endangerment is a Class 6 felony, you will be subject to all of the obstacles that convicted felons face. That includes fewer job and educational opportunities, credit problems, and difficulties with issues like child custody.
Why such harsh treatment of impaired drivers with child passengers? Statistics show that most children killed in drunk driving crashes are passengers in the car with the impaired driver. Someone who has been drinking is unlikely to take the time and care to restrain a child properly in his or her seat. The danger, then, is obvious.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) makes Child Endangerment one point on the 5-point checklist it uses to rate each state’s efforts in fighting drunk driving. Arizona has long been singled out as having an excellent model for cracking down on this particularly frightening crime.
It would be wonderful to live in a world in which such laws weren’t necessary – where all drivers instinctively valued human life enough to designate another driver or catch a taxi when they were under the influence, and therefore would never drive drunk with a child. But each day brings new reports of impaired drivers arrested – either before or after a crash – with a child in tow.
Until all drivers get the message about drinking and driving, we’re grateful that Arizona has such a thorough Child Endangerment law on the books.