The Senate approved legislation to stiffen penalties for adults who drive under the influence with a child in their vehicle on Wednesday. This bill comes after several people were charged with driving under the influence in Middletown as well as across the state.
In one example on Route 95 in October, State Police arrested a 25-year-old Richmond man who was allegedly driving drunk at 120 miles an hour with his 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old children in the car.
“Driving under the influence is a serious offense, but it rises to a new level of danger when it endangers a helpless child. People who drive drunk with a child in their cars are committing a much more serious crime than DUI, and they deserve a much more significant sentence,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence). “This bill sends a message that putting a child’s life at risk in this way will not be tolerated in Rhode Island.”
Current Rhode Island law allows those convicted of DUI who committed the crime with a child under 13 in their vehicle to be sentenced to up to one year in prison. Senator Goodwin’s legislation (2013-S 592) would institute immediate license suspension pending prosecution and make the crime a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, license suspension for up to two years, attendance in a course for DUI offenders, and alcohol or drug education or treatment. It also allows the sentencing judge to impose an additional “highway assessment” fine of up to $500.
State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell and staff from Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin’s office testified in support of the bill at its hearing on March 7.
The bill will now head to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2013-H 5666) is being sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown).