The state takes driving while intoxicated charges very seriously, and if the court convicts a driver on a DWI charge, he or she can expect a harsh sentence. However, if at the time an officer stops a driver on suspicion of a DWI and there is a child in the vehicle, it may change the outcome, depending on the circumstances.
According to U.S. News and World Report, having a child in the vehicle at the time of a suspected DWI stop is such a concern for lawmakers and judges because drunk driving often leads to accidents and 1 in 5 children who die in auto accidents are in the car with someone under the influence.
In some states, the penalties for a drunk driving conviction increase if the driver has a minor in the vehicle at the time. Some states elevate the charges to a felony while others increase potential jail time and fines. For example, Michigan is especially harsh on drivers convicted of this charge, assessing double or triple penalties.
In New Jersey
New Jersey is not quite as harsh as other states. Instead of increasing the penalties of the DWI charge, the presence of a minor in the vehicle of a driver under the influence causes an additional charge, according to NJ.gov.
The driver will face a disorderly person charge, which is a misdemeanor. Conviction on this charge will result in five days of community service and ensure the driver loses his or her license for at least six months in addition to any other license suspension from the original DWI charge.