Students on board a high school bus called their parents after they realized their bus driver, Carole Ann Etheridge, was driving erratically. A student who was on board the bus at the time of the incident can be heard saying, “We're in the middle of the road!” in a recorded video. After students let their parents know what was going on, the parents notified the school system and Etheridge was removed from the bus when she reached Loganville Middle School. Authorities found that Etheridge had “had a large bottle of tequila, small bottles of vodka and prescription pills in her purse.” When questioned at the school, Etheridge stated that she had gone out the night previously to celebrate her birthday. Etheridge has since been charged with one count of driving under the influence and 16 counts of child endangerment.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the toxicology report showed her breath test to be 0.043. While the legal drinking limit for those driving regular vehicles is 0.08, most people may be unaware that for those driving a commercial vehicle, the BAC limit is much lower. Under Georgia law, those operating a commercial vehicle, like Etheridge, are not permitted to have a BAC of 0.04 or higher. In addition, a driver with a commercial driver's license who is convicted of driving under the influence, can, in addition, the normal DUI penalties, have his or her license suspended for one year. For individuals who have chosen a driving-based career, this can significantly affect their ability to earn a living.
Another thing that most people may be unaware of is that being charged with Child Endangerment can significantly increase the possible penalties that a driver may face. In Georgia, the law states:
(l) A person who violates this Code section while transporting in a motor vehicle a child under the age of 14 years is guilty of the separate offense of endangering a child by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The offense of endangering a child by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs shall not be merged with the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs for the purposes of prosecution and sentencing. An offender who is convicted of a violation of this subsection shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of subsection (d) of Code Section 16-12-1, relating to the offense of contributing to the delinquency, unruliness, or deprivation of a child. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(l).
Thus, a driver with no DUIs who is charged with a DUI while driving a ten-year old child will likely also be charged with DUI Child Endangerment and will, therefore, be facing their first and second DUI charges at the same time.
In addition, drivers can be charged with child endangerment for each child under the age of fourteen in the vehicle. In Etheridge's case, there were actually 31 students on board the bus that morning, but only 16 were under the age of 14, hence just 16 child endangerment charges. Because of the stacked nature of these charges, it seems likely that Etheridge is facing significant penalties that could include jail time and fines.
Contact A Forsyth County DUI Attorney
If you are in need of a Forsyth County DUI Attorney, please do not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Richard Lawson today. Richard Lawson has been defending those accused of DUI for over twenty years. Let his experience and knowledge work for you. Contact the office by calling (404) 816-4440 or by filling out the online contact form.