2018 Child Endangerment Report



Overview of Child Endangerment The 2017 Child Endangerment Panel agreed that the following considerations remain a concern regarding impaired driving child endangerment: • Cases are not being properly charged, resulting in lack of prosecution. • Cases that are charged are often plea-bargained down or dismissed. • Reports made to child protective service agencies are not being documented or investigated. • There is a general lack of public awareness of the seriousness of the problem. • Divorced parents confronted with the problem of an ex-spouse who drives while impaired face legal challenges and the risk of subjecting themselves to civil contempt actions if they refuse visitation privileges to protect their children. • Many victims do not have the financial resources to seek relief in the civil court system. • Current state DUI/DWI child endangerment laws are complex and vary greatly from state to state, making enforcement and prosecution a challenge. • A uniform age of children needs to be established for when the laws apply. • There is no clear consensus on whether separate child endangerment statutes or enhanced penalties under existing DUI/DWI law is better. • There is a need for minimum mandatory penalties for violations of child endangerment laws. Evaluating Current Child Endangerment Laws A review of current child endangerment laws was conducted by panelists Dr. Romano and Dr. Kelley-Baker. Together with legal researchers Dr. Sue Thomas and Ryan Treffers, J.D., they conducted original legal research via the online legal research tool Westlaw. They built a data set containing statutes from across the 50 states and the District of Columbia that specifically criminalize operation of a motor vehicle by a driver under the influence of alcohol with a child passenger. Nine policy elements were identified across the jurisdictions. These policy elements were assigned a point value that was used to determine the strength of the statute. This value was then compared to how many children were killed in drunk driving crashes in each corresponding jurisdiction. Policy Elements and Point Allocations 1. Type of Law: Enhanced, Separate, Aggravating 2. Minimum Age of Driver: Unlimited (+2), age 20 and younger (+1), age 21 and older (0)


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