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Driving drunk is always a bad idea. But driving drunk with a child in the car is irresponsible parenting at best, and a felony at worst. Driving under the influence puts you at risk for potentially deadly accidents. When you add child passengers to the equation, you’re not only putting their lives at risk. You’re also putting yourself at risk for serious legal consequences. In Palm Beach, Florida, a 32-year-old woman was charged with a DUI, child neglect and hit and run after rear-ending a car on the freeway and fleeing the scene. She was found parked on the side of the road shortly after, noticeably intoxicated. The worst part? Two young boys, age 11 and 7 years, were in the backseat. This is not only a disturbing incident but an indication of irresponsible parenting that goes deeper than just driving drunk.
Just after 10:30 p.m. on Friday, September 29th, deputies responded to a hit-and-run crash near the intersection of Boynton Beach Boulevard and State Road 7. There, they spoke to a driver who said his car was rear-ended and that the other driver had fled the scene, heading south on State Road 7. Eventually, a deputy found a red Nissan Altima stopped on the side of the road with front-end damage. A woman was behind the wheel with two young children in the backseat.
The Florida woman, Handan Kabba, was given a Breathalyzer test which showed a blood-alcohol content level severely over “just a few drinks.” According to the report, she tested in at nearly double the legal intoxication limit. Being arrested for a DUI is a serious charge, but the presence of a minor in the car may take a DUI classification from misdemeanor to a felony. Many states automatically add severe penalties to their statutes when a child is involved in a DUI arrest or accident. This is called DUI modification or felony DUI. In Florida specifically, if a minor passenger is under 18 years old, there are added sanctions of up to $4,000 and a year in jail. A felony DUI is a much more serious record than the typical misdemeanor, resulting in potential disqualification from certain employment, housing, and more.
Parents, babysitters, and other caregivers are all responsible for a child’s safety and well-being while in their care. Any intentional, careless, or negligent act that results in imminent risk or serious harm to a child’s health and welfare is not only irresponsible parenting but child abuse or endangerment. Clearly, driving drunk with a child passenger falls into this category. On top of potential felony DUI charges, driving drunk with a child in the car can also lead to separate child endangerment or abuse charges, including a child protective services investigation. Driving under the influence already shows a lack of good judgment abilities, and involving children is exponential cause for concern.
Though the relationship between Kabba and the two boys was not clear from reports, whether she was their mother, babysitter or a family friend, there is equal cause for concern. If she was a professional in charge of the two boys she was clearly in grave negligence of her duties as a caretaker by both imbibing alcohol while the children were under her care and by deciding to drive drunk with two young children in the car. The accident occurred at 10:30 pm Friday night. This is late for children so young to be out and about, showing a lack of structure and concern. I suspect that further investigation into her caretaking capabilities may yield additional cause for concern for the safety and well-being of children in her care.
A 2014 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that nearly 20 percent of traffic fatalities involving children involve alcohol. The penalties that follow a DUI charge involving a minor passenger are severe. Driving drunk risks injury or death to not only the driver but everyone in the car. These laws are in place to protect children from a parent or guardian’s recklessness or negligence. Courts are unlikely to be lenient in cases where a judge has reason to believe the child may continue to be at risk. Worst case scenario is the parent may lose their parental custodial rights. There are several factors that influence the penalties:
Place of jurisdiction
Whether this is a first time or repeat offense
History of child endangerment or neglect issues
Age of the minor passenger
Age of the driver
Severity of the accident/passenger’s injury
Though the events leading up to Ms. Kabba’s hit and run are not clear, she is clearly irresponsible. There is no excuse for intoxication while children are in your care. This disregard for the consequences of her decisions is indicative of both irresponsible parenting and a possible substance abuse issue. Most parents would simply abstain from alcohol rather than risk the safety of themselves and their children. Ms. Kabba’s lack of judgment may be due to alcohol addiction and a history of substance abuse that requires further treatment and supervision to avoid risk to herself and her dependents.
Driving under the influence with children in the car is both dangerous and reckless. In addition to irresponsible parenting, it significantly alters the charges and penalties for a DUI arrest. This includes increased fines, time incarcerated, and severity of charges on your record. Having children in the car also changes a judge or jury’s view of the defendant unfavorably. This can lead to DUI modifications and potential involvement with child protective services. If you are in this situation, it is recommended that you contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. The best policy is to never drive drunk, especially if you are driving with children.Irresponsible Parenting