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DUI with a Child in the Vehicle

With alcohol flowing freely at family dinners, barbeques, and holiday events, parents are known for enjoying a few drinks with everybody else without putting much thought into the ride home and the fact that they’ll have their kids in the backseat.

Typically, well-meaning parents will 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 riding in the back. What happens next can strike fear in the hearts of the most loving moms and dads.


Under Section 23572 of the California Vehicle Code, 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 or stiffer penalties.

Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and the facts of the case will determine what happens next. What matters to the court is that you were driving under the influence, and there was a child under 14 in your vehicle at the time of the DUI arrest.

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.


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.

What Will You Be Charged With?

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. Clearly, parents want to avoid prison at all costs.