When Can an OWI Lead to Child Endangerment Charges in Iowa?

When a driver who is arrested for drunk driving in Iowa has a child in the vehicle, that driver can be charged with child endangerment in addition to operating while intoxicated. Sadly, it is not unusual for parents to find themselves facing these charges after going out to dinner with the family and having a couple of glasses of wine or beer. Many of these people have never been charged with a crime before, and it can be an extremely upsetting experience.

Under Iowa law, child endangerment occurs when a person with custody or control over a child - which is defined to include driving a vehicle with the child inside - knowingly places the child in physical danger. The severity of the charge will depend on the seriousness of any harm to the child. If the child is not harmed, the offense will be charged as an aggravated misdemeanor. It will be charged as a class "C" felony if the child suffers bodily injury, and a class "B" felony if the result is serious injury. If the child is killed, it will be a class "B" felony, which can mean a lengthy prison sentence upon conviction.

If the OWI charge can be thrown out the child endangerment charge must be thrown out with it, and there are many defenses available to an OWI charge in Iowa. The charges can be dismissed if the arresting officer lacked probable cause to pull the driver over. The accuracy of field sobriety tests and breath tests can also be challenged.

Source: Iowa Code § 726.6, accessed August 16, 2015

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