Chicago, IL- In early August a Chicago-area woman caused a traffic collision in which nine children were injured. Following the accident, investigators discovered that the woman was intoxicated at the time of the crash and is facing charges of intoxicated driving and child endangerment.

According to CBS Chicago, the accident took place on I-57 around 12:20 a.m. near the 99th Street, when the driver of a Chevy Suburban lost control causing the vehicle to roll over.

The Illinois Highway Patrol reported that Suburban, which was carrying two adults and nine children, was traveling at a high rate of speed when the driver lost control. The vehicle traveled up an embankment and flipped over.

Authorities said that seven of the children, ranging in age from 3 to 14, were not wearing safety belts.

One of the children, a five year-old boy and a 20 year-old woman were seriously injured and were taken to a local hospital. Four the children were in fair to serious condition. The remaining children had minor injuries.

The driver, 30 year-old Tonica Cornwell, who is the mother of several of the children was later charged with DUI and nine counts of child endangerment. She was also cited for multiple safety belt violations.

A simple intoxicated driving charge is serious enough that the accused can be sentenced to serve time in jail and have their license suspended. It is easier for an attorney to have those charges reduced or dismissed, but having one or more child endangerment charges tacked onto a DUI can significantly increase an offender’s resulting penalties.

The NHTSA estimates that approximately 17 percent of traffic fatalities involving children under the age of 14 are caused by impaired drivers. In light of this alarming statistic, many states, including Illinois have laws which make the penalties of driving drunk with a child more severe.

Illinois has imposed numerous sanctions for DUI- child endangerment, above the penalties imposed in other states. Intoxicated drivers over the age of 21, who drive with a child in their vehicle, can face up to six months in jail. Additionally, these drivers must pay an additional $1,000 fine and must serve 140 hours of community service. Forty hours of the community service must be served in a program that benefits children.

The penalties are worse if the children involved suffer bodily injuries. The charges are then categorized as a Class 4 felony, which included imprisonment for a minimum of one year.  The fines are increased to $2,500 and 25 days of community service. The jail sentence and community service are not eligible for suspension nor is the accused allowed a reduced sentence.

The courts take DUI-child endangerment very seriously so the people facing these charges must hire an accomplished Illinois DUI attorney to represent them and build an effective defense. There are ways to avoid the worst of these penalties but the offender will need an attorney to outline the different strategies they can employ.