Consequences Of DUI With Passenger Under The Age Of 14
In California, if you are arrested for driving under the influence and you have a passenger in your car under the age of 14, Vehicle Code section 23572 states that any sentence/punishment associated with the conviction of DUI may be enhanced. The enhancement depends upon whether it is your first, second or third offense for driving under the influence. For a first offense, the enhancement would be an additional 48 hours in jail and up to 90 days in jail for multiple offenses. This is in addition to your sentence for the underlying DUI charge.
So what this means is that when the District Attorney is filing their case, they may or may not include the enhancements for having a child under the age of 14 years. This often depends upon the circumstances of the arrest such as, the blood alcohol level of the defendant, the driving pattern, the age of the child, and the officer’s observations of the defendant during the initial stop.
On a more serious note, if someone is arrested for DUI with a child under the age of 18 in their car, they may be charged with Misdemeanor Child Endangerment, under California Penal Code section 273a, for willfully causing or permitting the child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered. The California Courts have determined that driving under the influence with a child in your car falls within the category of placing a child in a situation where his or her health may be endangered. Depending on the circumstances, 273a can also be charged as a felony.
After the case is submitted to the District Attorney, the DA has the discretion to charge a straightforward DUI, a DUI with sentence enhancements or the separate of charge of misdemeanor or felony child endangerment. Under Penal Code 273a, the prosecution may charge child endangerment regardless of the age of the minor.
Not every DUI where a child is present is filed as a misdemeanor child endangerment. The DA will look at everything from the blood alcohol level to how the driver was driving. As an example, if someone is pulled over for a minor traffic violation or mechanical violation, and not due to “drunk driving”, their blood alcohol level was just at or barely above the legal limit and the child is securely fastened in their seat, given this set of circumstances, the District Attorney may chose to file charges of DUI only or DUI with an enhancement for having a child under the age of 14 in the car.
In order for the prosecution to use a sentence enhancement, it must be proven that you were driving under the influence and that you had a minor, under the age of 14, in the car with you. Most prosecutors will take into consideration the following when determining whether or not file use sentence enhancements: 1) whether you intended to harm the child, 2) your blood alcohol level at the time of the arrest, and 3) your driving pattern prior to the stop.
It is important to note that you cannot be charged with enhancements or child endangerment if you are not convicted of the initial DUI. For this reason, it is extremely important to consult with an experienced DUI defense lawyer, as he or she may be able to influence the outcome of your conviction.