Any California DUI charge puts your license at risk and may threaten numerous other sentencing elements such as heavy fines, months of DUI class, time in county jail, and more; but when you are charged with DUI with Passenger Under 14, you are truly facing a major legal obstacle.
While there are many possible aggravating factors that can lead to significant DUI sentencing enhancements, DUI with passenger under 14 ranks among the most egregious and most harshly punished. If you are facing this allegation, you cannot afford to sit still and wait for the supposedly "inevitable" outcome — you need to act fast to do everything possible to defend yourself and save your future.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have successfully handled numerous DUI with passenger under 14 defense cases in the past, and we can build a solid defense for your case as well.
To learn more about your defense options and for a free legal consultation on the details of your case, contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 424-281-3020.
DUI with Passenger Under 14 (VC 23572)
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23572, there are specific sentencing enhancements when you are convicted of a DUI and a minor under the age of 14 was present with you in the vehicle you were driving.
This much the same as in other states, so California is not alone in treating DUI with a minor differently; but they are distinct from some other states in making it a sentencing enhancement rather than a completely separate crime. And they are also distinct in having both a DUI with a Passenger Under 14 and a Child Endangerment law instead of just combining the two. This means it is possible to be convicted of either of these two crimes or both, depending on the circumstances of the case.
The motivation for this statute is obvious: to put up extra deterrence to committing DUI with young children in the car in order to better protect California's youth. Yet, if you are falsely accused of DUI while an under-14-year-old was in the car with you, the results would be disastrous upon a conviction.
To be more specific, the sentencing enhancement for DUI with a child 14 or under in the vehicle is that jail time becomes mandatory. That is, you cannot eliminate it in a plea bargain. It cannot be exchanged for community service or other forms of "alternative" sentencing.
For a 1st offense of this kind, you must spend at least 48 hours of actual jail time. For a second offense, the minimum is 10 days. For a 3rd offense, it is 30 days; and for a 4th offense, it is 90 days.
Defending Against VC 23572
To gain a conviction, the prosecution not only needs to prove the basic elements of any DUI crime — that you had a BAC of .08% or higher, had a lower BAC but your driving was still inhibited by alcohol, or that you were under the influence of a drug while driving a vehicle. They also must prove a minor under the age of 14 was with you in the vehicle at the time of the DUI.
This part of the legal battle is fairly straightforward and only differs from an ordinary DUI case in one point. But if you cannot defeat the DUI or the allegation a child under 14 was in your vehicle, there are still other factors to consider.
If you had an intent to purposefully hurt the child, drove very erratically or at excessive speeds, or had an excessively high BAC level (.15% or higher), you will likely get the maximum penalty of something in that range. If, on the other hand, none of those things are true, and it is your first DUI, or you show genuine remorse and desire to change, you might get a sentence closer to the minimum.
Also understand that you can only get the sentencing enhancement if you are convicted of DUI (VC 23152a or VC 23152b). If we can get the charge reduced to wet or dry reckless driving (VC 23572), no such enhancement can apply.
As for repeat DUIs, the look-back period is 10 years from the relevant DUI arrest date. But reckless driving convictions (wet or dry) will count the same as DUIs for the purposes of serving as a prior. That is important since it can affect how long you would have to spend behind bars if convicted.
Finally, also note that a 4th DUI within 10 years can be either a misdemeanor or felony. If it is a felony, the DUI punishment is steeper but no child endangerment enhancement can apply. If it is charged as a misdemeanor, the enhancement is applicable.
PC 273a, California's Child Endangerment Statute
As mentioned above, California has both a child endangerment law (Penal Code Section 273a) and a DUI child endangerment enhancement (VC 23572).
Child endangerment, under PC 273a, is defined as "willfully placing a minor in a situation where his or her health/welfare is in danger." Previous decisions of California courts have set the precedent that DUI with a minor in the car falls within the scope of PC 273a.
This gives prosecutors several options. They can charge you with DUI and the VC 23572 child endangerment enhancement (if the child was under the age of 14). They can charge you only with PC 273a, child endangerment. Or they can charge you with both DUI and child endangerment simultaneously.
BUT, you cannot legally be convicted of both crimes for the same offense, thus "doubling up the sentencing." Note that this does not, however, exclude the possibility of a conviction for DUI without the child endangerment enhancement plus a child endangerment conviction under PC 273a.
There is not restriction to under age 14 with PC 273a. It can be charged all the way up to just under age 18. And whether the DUI is filed as a misdemeanor or felony does not restrict there from being a separate child endangerment charge.
More practically speaking, despite the many possibilities, prosecutors tend to charge PC 273a for more egregious DUI violations with a minor in the car and the enhancement for less severe cases.
Thus, if you were right at .08%, had not prior DUI record, and the child was wearing a seat belt, the child endangerment enhancement would be likely to be charged. But if you are a repeat offender, the child had no seat belt, and you were speeding at 20 mph over the limit at night, a DUI plus separate child endangerment charge would be likely.
The penalties for child endangerment (PC 273a) are as follows:
- Charged as a misdemeanor: up to 12 months in county jail.
- Charged as a felony: up to 6 years in state prison.
The typical penalty for child endangerment, as opposed to the maximums given above, provided the child was not actually injured during the incident, would be:
- Six months of incarceration on top of any DUI jail time.
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- A probationary period of 4 years or more.
- A protective order to stay away from the child who was endangered is possible.
- An order to avoid drug and alcohol consumption during probation, with randomized testing to enforce the order.
You can see then that the child endangerment charge is much more severe than the enhancement. Even with the VC 23572 enhancement, DUI can only get you up to 180 days total behind bars.
Thus, it matters a great deal that your DUI defense lawyer not only be able to fight the underlying DUI charge effectively but also be skilled at least reducing the sentence as much as possible even when a conviction cannot be totally avoided.
DUI-Related Custody Issues
If the child you endangered was not your own, there will be no custody issues arising from the incident. But, in many cases, a parent of the child under 14 (or under 18 for child endangerment PC 273a convictions) was the one who committed the DUI.
There is no provision in either the child endangerment enhancement or separate charge that removes a child from your custody. But, the DUI with child under 14 incident will be reported to California Child Protective Services (CPS), and that agency can potentially intervene to remove the child from your custody.
Thus, you need to defeat the DUI with Child Under 14 or separate Child Endangerment charges for the sake of your family as well as for the sake of keeping your license and avoiding jail time. And even if convicted of such a charge, you will want to secure a good lawyer to ensure CPS does not attempt to take your child away from you.
CPS may decide to follow up on the DUI with Child Under 14 conviction report with their own investigation. They will investigate the child's home environment to ensure he/she is "well cared for." You need to cooperate with investigators to avoid giving a bad impression, but do not give them information that could incriminate you or trigger any action on their part either.
CPS investigators will look to see if your home environment is safe, to see if you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, to find out if possible if you routinely drink and drive, to note any "violence" directed at your child/children, and to see that the child is well fed and clothed, having all basic necessities met.
Expect investigators to ask you some uncomfortable questions and to mention the DUI incident in which the child involved. Expect them to want to speak to your child as well, sometimes privately for a few minutes.
As California DUI defense lawyers who have seen numerous cases of DUI with Child Under 14 before, we understand how the DMV process, in-court DUI battle, and potentially, Child Protective Services investigation work. We can give you sound, proven advice on how to maximize your chances of avoiding an investigation or of preparing adequately for a CPS investigation.
There is nothing more devastating than for the state to seize custody of your child against your will. We understand what is at stake and will do everything possible to protect you from that possibility.
We at Los Angeles DUI Lawyer realize that, first of all, it is easy to be falsely accused of a DUI; and secondly, that just because you had a DUI with Child Under 14 incident, it doesn't mean you don't love and care about your child. We will fight to protect your license, keep you out of jail, and to keep your family intact. We will put ourselves in your shoes and fight like it was our future and family on the line.
Contact Us Today for Help
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have deep knowledge of the laws and legal processes that must be navigated to win a DUI with passenger under 14 case. We have a long track record of getting these charges dismissed, acquitted, or reduced, or of obtaining significant sentence reductions through skilled and timely negotiation.
Our team of DUI defense lawyers don't just know how to handle the "easy" DUI cases. They also have strong expertise in winning even the toughest of DUI cases. We will fight tenaciously in your behalf and secure for you the best possible outcome to your case.
For a free consultation on your DUI case, do not hesitate to contact us 24/7/365 by calling us at 424-281-3020. We are here to help.