The Mississippi Legislature has amended the DUI Statute (Ms Code § 63-11-30) to make driving while under the influence of alcohol or other another controlled substance with a child under the age of sixteen (16) a separate crime. Criminal Defendants facing DUI charges can now potentially be charged with the newly established crime of Endangering a Child by Driving Under the Influence. The law as amended became effective on July 1, 2012 and is currently in effect.
Just like the previously established DUI offenses, endangering a child by DUI has progressively harsher punishments depending upon the number of prior DUI convictions on the defendant's record. The law as amended does not require that the child be injured nor does it require the State to prove any higher level of culpability or causation. In order to be convicted of the new offense, the State need only prove that the defendant was "transporting in a motor vehicle a child under the age of sixteen" at the time the underlying DUI was committed. There is no requirement that the defendant know the persons age in order to be convicted under the amended law.
Most importantly, the law states that the new offense of endangering a child by DUI shall not be merged with the underlying DUI. This means that the penalties for violation of the new law are added to the penalties suffered for the underlying DUI. For instance, for a first offense DUI a defendant my be sentenced to up to two days in jail. If that same defendant has a child under the age of sixteen in the car with him, the maximum sentence length for that defendant will be one year and two days. That is because endangering a child by DUI carries a maximum sentence of twelve months for a first offense and the amendment of the law specifically prohibits the prosecution or the judge from joining the two offenses. Notice that every conviction of endangering a child by DUI will necessarily have a correlating conviction for DUI. Thus, upon a criminal defendant's third conviction for endangering a child by DUI, the defendant will be sentenced to a minimum of two years in prison and will be fined a minimum of $12,000.