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Underage Driving Under the Influence

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DWI bill targets drivers with underage passengers

Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011


Reviewed by Attorney Elisabeth Pasqualini, Criminal Law Division Leader

A Cheshire lawmaker has introduced a bill that would target those who drive under the influence of alcohol with a passenger under 16.

Right now, the state's laws regarding driving drunk don't specifically address that problem, but state Rep. Al Adinolfi, a Republican, aims to change that. Adinolfi said the proposed legislation "is an even stronger deterrent to drinking and driving than what we currently have on the books and has the potential to save Connecticut's children."

"As heinous an offense as drinking and driving is, I believe it's even worse when a child is endangered or injured," said Adinolfi, who represents parts of Hamden, Cheshire and Wallingford. "I'm just trying to close a loophole that exists."

Jamison Bazinet, a spokesman for Adinolfi, said that under drunken-driving laws, a driver with a passenger younger than 16 can't be charged with that specific offense.

"The police have the discretion in a case like this to charge a drunk driver with the endangerment of a child," Bazinet said.

Adinolfi said he agreed to propose the legislation after being approached by Cheshire resident Joe Bango, who is part of a group for divorced parents, Connecticut Kids First. Bango said that based on his experiences dealing with the state's legal system, "the courts just don't take drunk driving with a child in the car seriously enough."

This additional penalty appears to be ready for implementation for this prom season in Connecticut.  No word has been given whether lawmakers in Pennsylvania will consider imposing such penalties. 

The penalties in Pennsylvania for Driving Under the Influence (known as "DUI" or DWI in other states) are severe.  The added penalty of a young driver having a friend who is 16 or younger in the car with them, will obviously add greater sanctions to the already severe penalties.  Generally, an underage (less than 21) driver who has a Blood Alcohol Content of .02%, is legally incapable of safe driving.  Once convicted, they face 48 hours in jail, 6 months of supervision and a 12 month loss of license.  If you are faced with charges of Driving Under the Influence, Possession of Alcohol, Underage Drinking or any crime involving the use or possession of alcohol, contact the experienced team and Shaffer & Engle Law Office, LLC at or toll free at 1-866-765-0706.  You may contact attorney Pasqualini directly at [email protected]

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