California Minor Passenger Enhanced Penalty
There are many aspects to California DUI law. In addition to the DUI charges, you may also be charged for offenses associated with DUI such as reckless driving. One of these offenses is child endangerment. When a person is driving while intoxicated and there are minors in the car, it is considered child abuse. The law feels that if a driver cannot be trusted to pay attention to the road while drunk, they likely will fail to properly restrain children and look out for their best interests. California lawmakers look to crack down on child endangerment violators and a conviction can result in jail time and more.
Luckily, in order to be charged with a child endangerment DUI charge, you must first be convicted of DUI. According to California Vehicle Code Section 23152, you can be convicted of driving under the influence for operating a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol that amounts to a BAC of .08%.
Vehicle Code Section 23572
V.C. Section 23572 of California law states that a person driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a minor in the car will face an additional charge for endangering a minor. A person under the age of 14 is considered a minor in this situation. Violation of this law will result in an added penalty to your DUI sentence.
In order to be in violation of 23572, only two things need to be proven:
- The driver was intoxicated while operating a vehicle
- There was a passenger under 14 years of age in the vehicle as well
No other factors need to be proven. With some enhancements, like excessive speeding, the prosecution needs to show that the driver was speeding and driving recklessly while under the influence. This is not the case for endangering a minor sentence enhancements.
Endangering a Minor Penalties
Laws like VC 23572 are sentence enhancements which means they work with the guidelines of DUI laws. If you are convicted of DUI and driving with a minor in the vehicle, you will be sentenced for the DUI according to the standard guidelines and then have an additional penalty added on for endangering a minor. These penalties increase depending on the number of prior DUI convictions that you have in your record for the past ten years.
They are as follows:
- First time DUI offender: 48 hours of incarceration in a county jail
- Second time DUI offender: 10 days of incarceration in a county jail
- Third time DUI offender: 30 days of incarceration in a county jail
- Fourth time DUI offender: 90 days of incarceration in a county jail
It is important to remember that these sentences cannot be suspended by a judge like a DUI jail sentence so the jail time must be served. For example, if you get probation for a second DUI conviction with an enhanced penalty for having a minor passenger, you will have to serve 10 days in jail as a term of your probation.
Section 273a of the California Penal Code
In some cases, you could be charged with violation of Penal Code 273a, child endangerment, instead. This offense is more serious than a sentence enhancement and can lead to 1 to 6 years of jail time.
Penal Code 273a states that it is illegal if any driver:
willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered.
Driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle is considered by California to be dangerous to a child's well-being and therefore a charge can be filed against an adult who is DUI with a minor present.
Though you can be charged with both Penal Code 273a and V.C. Section 23572 violations for the same incident, you can only be sentenced for conviction of one of the crimes. Usually if you are charged with a penal code violation, you will not face the sentence enhancement of the lesser charge.
DUI Child Endangerment Defense in California
The only thing that has to be proven in order for this 23572 enhancement to be charged is that you had a child under the age of 14 in your vehicle while you were driving under the influence. If you do not fight the DUI offense, you will be convicted of this enhanced penalty as well.
The good news about child endangerment charges is that they are defensible. If you are found ‘not guilty' of driving under the influence, you cannot be found guilty of child endangerment. Our lawyers will work hard to defend you in your DUI case. We challenge every piece of evidence against you and work to establish reasonable doubt.
If you have been arrested for DUI and a minor was present at the time of arrest, call our firm now for a free consultation and find out what we can do for you.