DUI with a Child in the Vehicle (Child Endangerment) Defense in Tennessee

Driving under the influence (DUI) with a child in the vehicle is a serious crime in Tennessee that carries significantly greater penalties than a DUI without a child in the vehicle. The penalties for DUI with a child in the vehicle can be severe. A conviction for DUI with a child in the vehicle can result in a prison sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days, as well as fines, probation, and community service. Additionally, a conviction for DUI with a child in the vehicle can result in the revocation of the person’s driver’s license. The law also states that there will be an additional 30-day minimum sentence for those convicted of DUI with a child in the vehicle meaning that the minimum sentence if convicted at trial would be 32 days to serve in the detention facility. If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI with a child in the vehicle, it’s crucial to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

DUI with a child in the vehicle is governed by the state’s criminal code, specifically Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A.) § 55-10-415. According to T.C.A. § 55-10-415, a person commits DUI with a child in the vehicle when they operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and there is a child under the age of 18 in the vehicle.

As experienced DUI attorneys, Barnes & Fersten can help someone charged with DUI with a child in the vehicle by utilizing a variety of defense strategies to achieve a not guilty verdict at trial or a favorable negotiated plea agreement.

One of the key things that the attorneys at Barnes & Fersten can do is thoroughly review the evidence against the client and identify any potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. This can include challenging the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood tests, questioning the validity of field sobriety tests, and pointing out inconsistencies in the prosecution’s theory of the case. All the attorneys at Barnes & Fersten work together as a collective unit in determining the best defense strategy for your specific case. This includes each attorney reviewing the bodycam footage and any 911 call that exists on your case, in addition to completing any necessary research to establish your defense. This way you have 3 attorneys reviewing the evidence and working together to establish a strategy to resolve your case as favorably as possible.

The attorneys can also use countless defenses to DUI with a child in the vehicle that may be applicable in your case. These defenses may include:

  1. Lack of reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause: First, the prosecution must show that the officer had reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull your vehicle over, and therefore seize you. Next, the prosecution must prove there was reasonable suspicion to prolong the stop to conduct field sobriety tests. The state must also prove there was probable cause to place you under arrest and to request a blood and/or breath sample. Our attorneys may establish a lack of reasonable suspicion or probable cause in numerous ways, and we do not skip over any detail of the stop. For example, in one case, our attorneys were able to establish a lack of probable cause for a stop because the officer “seized” our client too early when activating blue lights in anticipation of our client committing a traffic violation. However, because the officer prematurely activated his blue lights, and our client could have avoided the traffic violation, the stop was suppressed, and the case was dismissed.
  2. Improper administration of field sobriety tests: Field sobriety tests are often used as evidence in DUI cases. However, they can be unreliable and can be challenged if not properly administered. Our attorneys will review the administration of the field sobriety tests and your performance on the test to see if they were conducted in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines. Similarly, our attorneys will review whether you were a proper candidate for field sobriety tests and whether they were conducted under fair conditions. An improperly instructed test may result in the entire test being invalidated and being unreliable in establishing impairment.
  3. Medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as diabetes or acid reflux, can cause a person to fail field sobriety tests or show a high blood alcohol content (BAC) even if they have not been drinking. Our attorneys can investigate your medical history to see if a medical condition may have been a factor in your arrest. We will work endlessly to establish any necessary facts and how your medical condition may have impacted your case to the prosecutor and potentially a judge and/or jury.

Being charged with DUI with a child in the vehicle may also have a negative impact on child custody and you may face consequences through the involvement of the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”). DCS is a government agency that is responsible for protecting children from abuse and neglect. If a child is in a vehicle when the driver is arrested for DUI, DCS may become involved to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. The agency may open an investigation to determine if the child was endangered by the driver’s actions and may take steps to protect the child if necessary.

It is important to know that if DCS opens an investigation, DCS may interview the child, the parents or guardians, and any other relevant parties. They may also conduct a home visit to assess the living conditions of the child. The agency may also ask for a urine or blood test to be done on the driver to check for drugs or alcohol in the driver’s system. If DCS determines that the child was endangered by the driver’s actions, they may take steps to protect the child, such as placing the child in the care of a relative or in foster care. The child may also be removed from the home.


Your peace of mind, experience, and case result drive everything that we do. We want to ensure that the false accusations against you or one mistake does not impact the rest of your life. We hope to sit down with you to discuss how we can help provide the best possible result under your circumstances at an affordable cost.

Call us at (865) 805-5703 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation as soon as practicable so that we can start working towards helping you move forward!

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