A New Jersey lawmaker is sponsoring a measure to crack down on parents or guardians who are convicted of DWI with a child in their vehicle.

(Andy Dean, ThinkStock)

Right now it's a disorderly person's offense, but Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-Jersey City) is sponsoring a measure to increase the penalties. Under his bill, a parent or guardian convicted of drunken driving with a minor in the car would be guilty of a fourth-degree crime if the violation results in bodily injury to the minor.

Fourth-degree crimes are punishable by imprisonment of up to 18 months in jail, and fines of up to $10,000.

Additionally, the bill calls for a parent or guardian to be charged with a third-degree crime if the violation results in serious bodily injury to the minor. Third-degree crimes are punishable by three to five years in prison, and fines of up to $15,000.

"The idea of it is just to protect the child that's getting in the car," Mainor said. "We have to protect those with no voice right now."

The assemblyman said the message to all adult drivers is simple.

"We want you to think twice about getting in a car, after you've had a few drinks, with a child," he said. "Give that child an opportunity; it has no voice. It is a serious problem and we want to get hold of it before it gets even worse than what it is."

Mainor said "nine times out of 10, if a parent knowingly gets in a car drunk with a child, there's a problem, so we want to continue on with some research and offer some rehab also, for first-time offenders. What we're stressing is, we're not going to tolerate you putting any child in jeopardy because of a habit that you may have."

The measure was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, and now heads to the full lower house for consideration.