Repeat drunk driving offenders in Pennsylvania are often required to install ignition interlock devices in their cars for a period of time before they are able to obtain their driver's license. An ignition interlock device prevents a person from driving a vehicle until someone blows into the device and no alcohol is detected. A Millersburg was recently caught having his 15-year old son blow into the device on 15 to 20 occasions. As if having your teenager blow into a device so the man could continue to drive drunk was not bad enough, the man drove while under the influence with his children in the car to get more beer.
Dauphin County Criminal Charges
The man was charged with Endangering Welfare of Children, Corruption of Minors, and Tampering With an Ignition Interlock System. The Ignition Interlock charge under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3808(b) is clearly based upon the man using his son to bypass or circumvent the interlock system by having the son blow into the device. The Corruption of Minors charge under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6301 is based upon the man corrupting the morals of a minor or encouraging the minor to commit a crime. The Endangering charges under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 4304 allege that the man was a parent and was responsible for supervising a child under 18 when he violated a duty of care, protection, or support. Here, the Endangering charges are probably based upon the fact that the man drove while under the influence of alcohol and in violation of the ignition interlock law with his children in the car. Because the Dauphin County District Attorney believed that the man had engaged in a course of conduct of endangering the welfare of his children, one of the charges was graded as a felony of the third degree. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of 7 years incarceration and a $15,000.00 fine. The remaining Endangering charges, as well as the Ignition Interlock violation and Corruption of Minors charge, were misdemeanor offenses. A first degree misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of 5 years incarceration and a $10,000.00 fine
Cases Involving Child Victims Treated More Severely
In many criminal cases, prosecutors request and judges often impose a more severe sentence if a child victim is involved. For example, a person that provides alcohol to a minor for an underage drinking party is charged with Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor. If the case involves a Penn State student that is buying alcohol for another student that is over 18, the prosecutor is likely to permit a first-time offender to participate in the Centre County ARD program. However, if the case involved a parent providing alcohol to high school students for a party, the parent in unlikely to be approved to participate in a pretrial diversionary program and would instead be more aggressively prosecuted by the district attorney. The prosecutor argues that a parent should be held to a higher standard in comparison to a college student and that people that endanger younger children should be more severely punished.
In this case, the fact that the man has a history of breaking the law and has now involved his 15-year-old son in illegal endeavors would explain why the Dauphin County prosecutor probably took a much stronger stance in prosecuting the case and refusing to issue a plea agreement that would be accepted. The man actually pleaded open, meaning he pleaded guilty to all charges and left sentencing to the discretion of the judge. The man's Harrisburg defense attorney probably argued for a probationary or in-home detention sentence. The man claimed that he had been reformed and had learned from his mistakes, but the judge wasn't so sure and felt that a sentence of 6 months incarceration was appropriate. I am sure that the severity of the sentence was influenced by the fact that the man's actions endangered the lives of his kids and because he encouraged his son to break the law.