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DUI and Child Endangerment

With alcohol flowing freely at family BBQs and birthday parties, sporting events, and holiday gatherings, it happens: Parents enjoy a couple of drinks, collect their family members (kids included), and head home. What seems like a natural chain of events quickly takes a turn for the worse when the parent sees the red and blue lights flashing in their rear-view mirror and their kids are buckled up in the back.

What Are Sentence Enhancements?

Did you get arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) while a child was riding in your vehicle? Under Vehicle Code 23572 VC, if you’re convicted of misdemeanor DUI and you had a child under the age of 14 in your car at the time of the arrest, you face sentence enhancements. Your level of intoxication, and the circumstances surrounding your case will determine what happens next. What matters most to the court is that: you were driving under the influence, and there was a child under the age of 14 in your vehicle when you were driving.

Penalties for a violation of VC 23572:

  • For a first conviction: up to 48 hours in jail
  • For a second conviction: up to 10 days in jail
  • For a third conviction: up to 30 days in jail
  • For a fourth conviction: up to 90 days in jail

Child Endangerment Charges

If there was a minor in your vehicle at the time of your DUI, you can be charged with a separate crime under Penal Code 273a, child endangerment, which can be a misdemeanor or felony.

In DUI cases involving a child passenger, the prosecutor may charge the driver with the DUI sentencing enhancement, or with the separate crime of child endangerment, or they can charge the defendant with both.

Under Section 273a, the law punishes people who willfully cause or permit children to be placed in a situation where the child’s health or safety is endangered, and California lawmakers decided that drunk driving fits this description.

Child Endangerment or a DUI Sentence Enhancement?

For a simple first-time DUI with a borderline BAC around .09%, it’s likely that the prosecutor would be satisfied with charging the defendant with a DUI sentencing enhancement, instead of with PC 273a. A violation of 23572 VC is punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail. In contrast, child endangerment carries sentencing ranges from up to one year in jail to up to six years in a California State prison. You do the math.

Don’t risk your kids’ future or incarceration for a one-time mistake. Contact an Orange County DUI defense lawyer from the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. immediately for a strong defense! All of our first consultations are FREE.