In South Carolina, unlike in some states, the term “child endangerment” refers to a specific criminal offense codified under state law rather than a range of behaviors that might put a child in harm’s way. That said, this offense is treated by law enforcement authorities and criminal courts as an enhancement of other charges, which can result in severe sanctions for even a first-time offender.
Guidance from Christopher L. Jones, a knowledgeable Greenville child endangerment lawyer, can make a huge difference in how effectively you can contest these charges. Whether you already have a criminal record or no involvement with the legal system, a dedicated defense attorney could support you and advocate for your rights throughout your legal proceedings.
How State Law Defines Child Endangerment
Child endangerment as a criminal offense is addressed under the Motor Vehicles section of the South Carolina Code of Laws, since it can only happen while you are operating a motor vehicle. As per South Carolina Code of Laws §56-5-2947, someone over 18 engages in criminal child endangerment if they commit any of the following criminal offenses with a child under 16 years old in the vehicle with them:
- Failing to stop a car when signaled to do so by police, under C. Code §56-5-750
- Driving while alcohol or drug-impaired, under C. Code §56-5-2930
- Driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration, under C. Code §56-5-2933
- Felony DUI that results in great bodily injury or death, under C. Code §56-5-2945
Even if there is more than one child under 16 in the vehicle at the time, you can only face one additional charge for child endangerment, which differs from how certain other states treat this particular offense. In addition, the specific intoxicating substance in question has no effect on the severity of a child endangerment charge, nor does blood alcohol concentration. Anyone who drives any vehicle while unlawfully impaired could face child endangerment charges in Greenville if they do so with a child present, as a seasoned attorney could further explain.
Possible Penalties from a Child Endangerment Conviction
Rather than treating child endangerment as a separate criminal charge, state law allows courts to add the penalties associated with child endangerment onto those levied against you for your underlying offense. Specifically, a child endangerment conviction allows for additional sanctions of up to half the maximum monetary fine and/or up to half the jail or prison sentence for the underlying offense.
For example, a first-time driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration offense carries a $400 fine and maximum 30-day jail term. If you are convicted of child endangerment, you could be fined an additional $200 and imprisoned—or sentenced to community service—for an additional 15 days. A child endangerment lawyer in Greenville could offer more specific information about what penalties you might face in your situation.
Consider Working with a Greenville Child Endangerment Attorney
Child endangerment charges can be challenging to contest effectively for numerous reasons, and it can sometimes even be hard to figure out exactly what criminal punishments this type of charge might carry. If you are facing charges of this nature, it is crucial to understand that you have legal options.
Greenville child endangerment lawyer and former prosecutor Christopher L. Jones understands the intricacies of these cases and could work with you to build a robust defense. Call today to set up your free consultation.