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Child Endangerment

An arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is punishable by possible jail time and a fine. However, drunk driving while you have a child in the car can lead to increased criminal penalties in California. In some cases, a driver may be charged with criminal child endangerment. If you have been arrested for a DUI with a child in the vehicle, contact your East Bay DUI defense attorney.

DUI with a Child Passenger Under California Vehicle Code 23572

Under California Vehicle Code 23572, if any person is convicted of driving under the influence and a minor under 14 years of age was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the offense, the court shall impose enhanced penalties. This includes convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, illegal drugs, or prescription medications.

The enhanced penalties for a DUI with a child passenger are added to the prison sentence imposed for the DUI offense. The amount of additional time depends on the individual's DUI history. A prior offense includes any DUI conviction within the last 10 years.

The punishment for first offense DUI shall be enhanced by an imprisonment of 48 continuous hours in the county jail, whether or not probation is granted, no part of which shall be stayed. Even if an individual is not sentenced to any prison time for a first offense DUI, a sentencing enhancement for a DUI with a child in the car will require a minimum of 48 hours in jail.

The punishment for a second offense DUI shall be enhanced by an imprisonment of 10 days in the county jail, whether or not probation is granted, no part of which may be stayed. A third offense DUI shall be enhanced by an imprisonment of 30 days in the county jail. And a fourth offense misdemeanor DUI shall be enhanced by 90 days in jail.

Defenses to DUI Driving with a Child

The enhancement will apply whether you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even if you are convicted of driving under the influence with a BAC below the legal limit, having a child in the car will lead to the sentencing enhancement.

If you are able to plea bargain to a “wet reckless” or reckless driving instead of a misdemeanor DUI, you may be able to avoid the sentencing enhancement.

Driving under the influence with a child in the car only applies to children under the age of 14. In most cases, driving under the influence with a child who is 14 years old or older will not result in a sentencing enhancement.

If you are convicted of child endangerment in relation to driving under the influence with a child in the car, the additional DUI sentencing enhancement will not be imposed.

Child Endangerment for a DUI with a Child Passenger Under Penal Code 273a

Child endangerment is a separate criminal charge under California Penal Code 273a. Driving under the influence with a child passenger can result in multiple criminal charges for the DUI and child endangerment.

Placing a child in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered is a criminal offense. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drug with a child in the car may be considered a form of child endangerment. Child endangerment may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the circumstances.

Placing a child in a situation where his or her health is endangered under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death is a felony. Penalties include punishment in state prison for 2, 4, or 6 years. In circumstances other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, child endangerment is a misdemeanor, with penalties including up to one year in prison.

If convicted of child endangerment, there is also a mandatory minimum period of 4 years probation, a protective order, completion of a minimum one-year child abuser's treatment counseling program. Child endangerment for a DUI may also require the individual to abstain from using drugs or alcohol during probation and be subject to random drug tests by his or her probation officer.

A felony child endangerment conviction may impact your future even after you have served your time. A felony can make it more difficult to find a job, and you may be prohibited from owning a firearm, serving on a jury, or running for public office.

Child Endangerment to a Minor Under the Age of 18

Penal Code 273a for child endangerment applies to minors who are under the age of 18. If you are drunk driving with a 17-year-old passenger, you may face child endangerment charges. The child endangerment DUI enhancement only applies to children under the age of 14. Drunk driving with a passenger over the age of 14 but under 18 is not a DUI enhancement but may be considered child endangerment.

Child Endangerment or DUI Sentencing Enhancement

Not all drunk driving with a child passenger cases will lead to charges of child endangerment. It may depend on the specific facts of the case and amount of perceived danger the child was in. Factors that may affect whether child endangerment charges are filed and charged as a felony or misdemeanor may include: 

  • The driver's blood alcohol content (BAC)
  • Use of multiple drugs or drugs and alcohol
  • If the child is in a proper seat restraint
  • If the driver was driving recklessly
  • If the car is involved in an accident

East Bay Child Endangerment DUI Attorney

Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing drunk driving and child endangerment charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and maintaining a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Oakland, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa or Alameda Counties, contact Lynn Gorelick who understands you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.

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We offer a free initial consultation to people accused of DUI and criminal offenses in the Bay Area. Call us at 510-785-1444 to schedule yours.

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