In cases where drivers are arrested for DUI in Pasco County, Florida and children are in the vehicle at the time of arrest, arresting officers typically also charge the driver with child abuse or child neglect.
In the vast majority of cases, however, even where the arrested driver pleads guilty to DUI, law enforcement typically drops the child abuse and child neglect charges.
Child abuse and child neglect are felonies. Many DUIs are misdemeanors.
The state attorney’s office nearly always maintains that it doesn’t prosecute child abandonment and neglect in these cases because they cannot prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt (as required in criminal cases) where the evidence merely supports DUI.
For the child abuse or neglect charge to stick, there must be a “serious risk of person injury or mental injury to the child”.
But even in weaker criminal cases, the arrest is not the end of the issue of child abuse or neglect.
Arresting officers are supposed to call in complaints to Florida’s child abuse hotline. From there, child protective services and child protection investigators can address the child-related issues more thoroughly – and resolve them in juvenile court with a lesser burden of proof than in criminal court.