Friday, December 21, 2001
DUI Suspects With Child in Car Will Face Endangerment Charges—Delgadillo
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Drunk drivers who are pulled over in the city of Los Angeles with children in their cars will now face an additional charge of misdemeanor child endangerment on top of the drunk driving charge under a new citywide policy introduced yesterday by City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.
“We must send a clear message to those who choose to drink irresponsibly and place their lives and the life of a child in danger,” Delgadillo said.
The additional charge of misdemeanor child endangerment carries a maximum of an extra six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine on top of the penalty for misdemeanor drunk driving. The charge will be applied to cases involving minor children under 14.
“Drunk driving is not an accident or a mistake,” Delgadillo said. “It is a choice.”
The child endangerment charge will apply only to misdemeanor drunk driving offenses since the City Attorney’s Office can only prosecute misdemeanors. Felony drunk driving offenses are referred to the District Attorney’s Office.
The District Attorney’s Office does not have a set policy that adds an automatic child endangerment charge to drunk drivers who were arrested with children in the car, spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
“Each case is unique and charges will be filed if appropriate,” Robison said.
The new prosecution policy will not require any additional resources, Delgadillo said. In recent weeks the city attorney has asked for millions of dollars in additional resources for his office, promising big returns in the end.
“My city attorneys said they can handle it,” he said. “They’re tough.”
The new drunk driving policy has the backing of law enforcement officials who said they support any effort that would keep their officers from having to respond to accidents where children are injured and boxes of Christmas gifts are thrown about because a parent decided to drive drunk.
“It’s a scene that no one likes to see,” California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Skip Carter said.
But Carter said a lot of people don’t think of the consequences of putting their children in the car before it’s too late.
“They are such innocent victims, but people don’t think about it until after it happens,” Carter said.
The Los Angeles Police Department made 1,200 driving under the influence arrests between Dec. 12 and Jan. 13 last year, Acting Chief Julius Davis said. DUIs also resulted in 15 deaths and 85 serious injuries during that same time frame.
“The LAPD will embark on an aggressive traffic enforcement campaign,” Davis said.
The CHP will also increase patrols over the holidays, with 80 percent of the department’s available officers on the road, Carter said.
The Los Angeles Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving also voiced its support for the new prosecution program which Executive Director Tina Pasco said she hopes extends throughout the nation.
“There is never an excuse for drinking and driving,” Pasco said. “There is never an excuse to endanger your child’s life.”
Pasco suggested that parents who haven’t planned ahead for a designated driver or a babysitter should consider other alternatives to bringing their children with them when they have been drinking.
“You should stay home and put on Barney,” Pasco said.
Pasco acknowledged that drivers may not be aware of the added penalty right away, but those people who are slapped with the additional charge will spread the word.
“It will spread and spread,” Pasco said.
Councilman Tom LaBonge also urged city residents to be smart when celebrating the holidays.
“Traffic and safety is what gets us home at night,” LaBonge said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company