What if you are arrested for DUI with minors in the vehicle?
A DUI is a serious offense in the state of California, where driving laws are very prescriptive and strongly enforced. These laws outline a number of additional factors that can compound a DUI offense in the event that your DUI might impose an increased risk to others. One of the factors that can increase the severity of a DUI sentence is having a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle while the defendant is driving under the influence.
In order for this additional sentence to be pursued, the prosecutor must prove two elements:
- The defendant was driving while intoxicated
- A minor under the age of 14 was present in the vehicle at the time
Under the California Vehicle Code 23572vc, the presence of a minor in a vehicle with an intoxicated driver will result in an additional punishment in two possible ways:
- Sentence enhancement: This means that you have an additional penalty of 48 hours in jail that is simply an enhancement of your DUI sentence. This effectively increases the severity of the punishment—which is necessary given the presence of the minor in the vehicle—but does not impose a lengthy prison sentence. It is generally given to first-time offenders.
- Child endangerment crime: In this case, you will be charged with both a DUI as well as the additional crime of endangering a minor. You can be convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment or felony child endangerment. The former carries a maximum one year prison sentence while the latter can include up to six years in a state prison. In child endangerment cases, the maximum age of the minor can be increased from 14 to 18 if the judge finds this to be appropriate.
DUI with Minor
Driving with a minor means that you will face both a DUI charge as well as an additional sentence for the child-related danger, whether it is a sentence enhancement or a separate criminal charge. In order to ascertain which of these will be awarded to you, a judge will consider the following three elements:
- Intent to harm the child or children in question
- BAC test results
- Driving patterns (the officer will observe the level of danger caused by the driving)
Apart from the aforementioned factors, the jail time will also depend upon how many DUIs the defendant has had in the past ten years:
Orange County DUI Attorney
The jail time imposed by the sentence enhancement or the child endangerment charge will be added to the standard DUI jail time. Additionally, Child Protective Services (CPS) may get involved if the case is serious enough. Upon conducting an evaluation of the defendant’s care of the child, CPS does have the authority to remove the child from the defendant’s care if deemed necessary.
DUI Defense Attorneys in Orange County
There are ways to avoid jail time. A skilled Orange County DUI defense attorney has the ability to minimize the sentence or to attempt to dismiss the case. Otherwise, they may enter a plea bargain for a lesser charge like a “wet reckless,” which does not include jail time.