You would expect that the Glendale mother who recently ran over her 7 year old while she was driving under the influence would be charged not only with DUI but child endangerment. But you don’t necessarily have to injure your child to get slapped with child endangerment charges if you are driving drunk.

In the case of the Glendale mother, she ran over her child’s leg as she left a parking stall at a grocery store with her son clinging to the passenger side door. Fortunately, the child did not suffer significant injuries but his mother was booked for felony DUI and child endangerment. This mom is probably going to prison and she will certainly lose custody of her children, perhaps permanently.

DUIs may be charged as a felony whenever there is bodily injury to another person caused by a vehicle being driven by someone under the influence (Vehicle Code §25153). A person convicted of felony DUI with injury can be sentenced to up to four years in prison.

Driving under the influence with a child under that age of 14 adds an enhancement to the DUI sentence. (Vehicle Code 23572.) This enhancement carries a minimum mandatory jail sentence of 48 hours. That doesn’t seem too harsh, but what about losing custody of your child? If the child in your car is yours when you get arrested for DUI, there is a good chance that Child Protective Services (CPS) will take custody of your child.

Driving under the influence with a child in the car can also be charged as child endangerment (Penal Code 273a). Child endangerment is not a vehicle code charge; it is a criminal charge and can be charged if a child up to the age of 18 is in your car while you are driving under the influence. There is nothing to stop the prosecutor from charging a driver who is driving under the influence with a child—even an older minor—with criminal child endangerment; however, this is more likely to happen when the driver is seriously inebriated or driving recklessly. A child endangerment conviction can result in up to one year in jail in addition to the DUI penalties. But if the child was injured, as was the case in Glendale, or even if there was a risk of injury, the charge is a felony and if convicted could result in six years in state prison.

When a driver is arrested for DUI and a child is in the car, the child will be placed under protective custody. Even if the child is later released back to the driver’s custody, CPS will almost certainly get involved. CPS is not a law enforcement agency, it operates under administrative law and that means someone being investigated by CPS does not have the same criminal rights as someone being investigated by law enforcement. CPS has the power to investigate and remove the child from the driver’s custody. It can and does happen!

Getting your child back usually involves a long complicated process that starts with a hearing before an administrative judge. Additionally, if there is a family law case, getting a DUI with your child in the car will almost certainly be considered in any custody arrangement and it is quite likely that the DUI will adversely affect the driver’s custody of the child.

California does not take driving under the influence with a child in the car lightly. The consequences can forever change your life and the life of your child. DUI charges that involve a child in the car carry potential consequences much more serious that a 48 hour in jail sentence enhancement. If you are a parent recently arrested for driving under the influence with your child in the car, or if you have any questions about driving under the influence charges, experienced DUI attorney, William Weinberg, is available to speak with you about your matter. You may contact him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.