A 24-year-old woman was arrested and charged with three misdemeanor counts of Driving Under the Influence and Child Endangerment after she crashed into a parked car in Anaheim, California. A four-year-old child was injured in the accident, and was taken to the hospital where she was treated and later released. Because the child was a passenger in the driver’s car, there is the additional charge of child endangerment.
In this situation, not only is this woman facing the added serious charge of child endangerment, she faces the possibility of sentence enhancements if convicted of the DUI charge. In situations where a person is convicted of DUI and, at the time of the arrest for DUI, had a child under the age of 14 years in the car, the court may impose sentence enhancements of an additional 48 hours in jail, on top of the penalties and punishments associated with the DUI conviction. The enhanced jail time goes up with every prior DUI a person has suffered.
As previously mentioned, a person must be convicted of Vehicle Code Section 23152, driving under the influence, in order for the court to impose sentence enhancements. This means that if your attorney is successful in fighting the DUI charge, the enhanced punishment would obviously not apply. However, even if your attorney is unable to get the DUI charge dismissed, a good DUI defense attorney will work aggressively to get the DUI charge reduced in order to avoid the sentence enhancement. As an example, a successful plea bargain might be a reduction from DUI to a wet reckless. Although a wet reckless is priorable when it comes to any future DUI charges, the enhancement for having a child in the car would not apply.
The charge of child endangerment, Penal Code section 273a, is what’s known as a “wobbler” meaning that the District Attorney can elect to file it as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the circumstances of the case and the prior criminal history of the person being charged.
The prosecution must prove certain elements of the crime in order for a person to be convicted of Penal Code section 273a. Those elements include:
1. The willful inflection of unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child, under the age of 18 years, or
2. That, as a result of criminal negligence the child was allowed to suffer unjustified physical pain or mental suffering, or
3. That under your control or care, you:
a. Willfully caused, and as a result of criminal negligence, allowed the child, or the health of the child to be injured; or
b. Allowed the child to be placed in a situation they, or their health, was endangered.
The penalties for a conviction of misdemeanor child endangerment may include:
1. A minimum of four years informal probation;
2. Up to one year in county jail;
3. Fines of up to $1,000.00;
4. A protective order, protecting the child from further danger;
5. A one year child abuser’s treatment program; and
6. If, at the time of the offense, you were under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol, the court may impose an order that you not use alcohol or drugs during your probationary period. This may include random drug testing.
The penalties for a felony conviction of child endangerment may include:
1. All of the penalties outlined above, with the exception of jail time and fines.
2. Four years formal probation;
3. State prison for a period of two, four or six years;
4. A maximum $10,000.00 fine;
5. If there was infliction of great bodily injury or harm to the child, an additional and consecutive three to six years in prison; and
6. A possible strike.
The charges of DUI and child endangerment are very serious and can have long lasting effects on a person’s life. Retaining the services of an aggressive, experienced criminal defense attorney, who has experience negotiating with the District Attorney in these types of matters, can make the difference in jail or prison and probation.
If your would like to know more about driving under the influence and/or child endangerment, contact William Weinberg at his IIrvine, California office at 949-474-8008