A recent drunk driving arrest in Moorhead, Minnesota has received significant press attention this week. While drunk driving by itself is only occasionally noteworthy, what set this case apart was the fact that the man arrested had his two daughters in the car with him at the time of the traffic stop.
Reports indicate that not only were the girls in the car, but the man arrested actually had them crack open several cold ones for him while he sped down the road. Police say that the man’s twelve-year-old twin daughters were with their father as he drove between 90 and 100 miles per hour while drinking from beer cars he asked them to open for him. Apparently he was concerned about keeping his hands on the steering wheel, safety first and all that.
Though the situation was certainly troubling, many people may not realize that in addition to all the normal penalties associated with drunk driving, Minnesota has created additional punishments for those who do so with their children onboard.
The driver in this case now faces not only a felony DWI charge, but also two charges for gross misdemeanor child endangerment. Those individuals charged with felony DWI are subject to possible imprisonment for seven years as well as a fine of up to $14,000. The news gets even worse for Iverson who police say has three prior drunk driving convictions since 2008, convictions that will likely increase the severity of his punishment for the latest incident.
Authorities say that due to the presence of children in his car, something that under Minnesota law is viewed as an “aggravating factor” in most DWI cases, Iverson now faces years behind bars. This kind of prison sentence is dramatically higher than those typically handed down in ordinary drunk driving cases and reveals just how serious the addition of an aggravating factor can be bumping up not only a driver’s charges but their ensuing penalties. Drinking and driving arrests that might ordinarily only rise to the level of a misdemeanor are escalated when children are involved. Minnesota law states that the penalty for drunk drivers will be increased in those cases where children are placed in danger. Specifically, Minnesota law says that sentences can be increased with the presence of a child under the age of 16 in the motor vehicle at the time of the offense
An interesting aside, given Moorhead’s location near the North Dakota state line, is that had Iverson been pulled over only a few miles further down the road he likely would be looking at substantially less jail time. North Dakota law makes no distinction about whether children are in a car for someone’s fourth DUI offense and Iverson would only be charged with a Class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum one year behind bars.
Source: “Penalties for driving drunk with children in the car,” by, published at WDAY.com.