In California, drivers who are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) may face enhanced penalties if there was a minor under the age of 14 in the vehicle with them at the time of their alleged offense. This can be prosecuted as child endangerment, which is defined as any actions that harm or seriously compromise the best interest of a child.
Penalties for DUI with Minors in the Vehicle
A DUI sentencing enhancement may apply under California Vehicle Code § 23572 and typically includes mandatory jail time, the extent of which will vary depending on whether this is a driver's first, second or subsequent DUI offense.
If a driver is convicted of DUI with a minor passenger, the following penalty enhancements may apply. The following mandatory county jail terms will be applied in addition to and immediately following any other term of imprisonment the court imposes for the original DUI offense:
- For a first DUI offense, 48 hours;
- For a second DUI offense within 10 years, 10 days;
- For a third DUI offense within 10 years, 30 days; or
- For a fourth or subsequent misdemeanor DUI offense within 10 years, 90 days.
It is important to note that the above sentencing enhancements only apply if a driver is convicted of DUI under California Vehicle Code § 23152. This is the primary DUI law in California. If a driver's charges under § 23152 are dismissed or are reduced to a "wet reckless" under California Vehicle Code § 23103, these sentencing enhancements cannot be enforced.
What Is Needed to Prove DUI with a Minor Charge
There are two key parts to a DUI with a minor charge.
- First, the prosecuting attorney must prove that the driver was "under the influence" of alcohol or drugs. The prosecution must prove that the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater and/or had abilities that were impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two.
- Second, the prosecuting attorney must prove that a minor under the age of 14 was in the vehicle at the time of the offense. The prosecution does not need to prove that the driver intended to harm the child or that the driver drove in a manner that endangered the child's life. The only requirements are DUI and the minor's presence.
Child Endangerment and DUI
There is another type of criminal charge that may apply if a driver is arrested for DUI with a minor in the vehicle. Under California Penal Code § 273(a), a person may face misdemeanor or felony charges for intentionally and willfully placing a child in harm's way. A prosecutor may charge a driver under Penal Code § 273(a) for certain DUI-related offenses if any minor under the age of 18 was in the vehicle. A prosecutor may charge a driver under Penal Code § 273(a) and may also seek a sentencing enhancement under California Vehicle Code § 23572 if the driver is also charged with a standard DUI under Vehicle Code § 23152.
Child endangerment charges should only apply in cases where the prosecuting attorney is trying to prove that the driver willfully placed the minor in a dangerous situation by driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
If convicted, a driver may face up to one year in county jail or two, four or six years in state prison. Whether the child was actually injured is not applicable in child endangerment charges; only that the child was placed at risk of suffering harm.
Fight Your Charges
Get more information about your rights and options in the face of DUI with a minor charges in California. At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, we are proud to offer experienced and committed legal counsel to drivers throughout the Orange County area in the face of all misdemeanor and felony DUI charges. Call today.