California has strict laws that deal with drivers who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The law also provides enhanced penalties and punishments for intoxicated drivers arrested while driving with a passenger below 14 years of age. This is referred to as DUI with child endangerment provided under California PC 273a. It involves mandatory imprisonment above the standard DUI penalties. This means that you may automatically serve a jail term if the court convicts you of DUI with a passenger below 14 years. DUI involving a minor under 14 years of age, is one of California's most heavily and severely punished crimes. If you face this accusation, the consequences could be detrimental. At the Bakersfield DUI Attorneys, we will evaluate your case and help you create the best defense to fight the charges.

DUI With a Passenger Below 14 VC 23572

According to Vehicle code 23572 of the California law, if the court convicts you of a DUI involving a passenger below 14 years of age, you could face an enhanced sentence above the standard sentence for a DUI defendant. If you commit this offense, the court might convict you of two criminal offenses. You could face child endangerment charges under California PC 273a and DUI with a passenger below 14 years. If the court considers you guilty, you could face a jail term for either criminal charges. According to California law, you cannot face DUI with a passenger below 14 and child endangerment charges at the same time. The prosecutor will have to charge with one of the crimes.

The California law is strict on protecting the youth and discourages people from committing offenses involving minors. Prosecutors and law enforcement officers are aggressive in prosecuting DUI with a passenger below 14. Therefore, malicious prosecution and false accusations are common.  If you face a conviction, a jail term and harsh penalties are inevitable because the charges cannot be substituted for anything else. Therefore, engaging a competent and qualified attorney is crucial if you face this legal predicament. If the court convicts you of DUI with a passenger below 14 years of age, you could face an enhanced jail term as follows:

  • First offense — 48 hours in jail
  • Second offense — Ten days in jail
  • Third offense — 30 days in jail
  • Fourth offense misdemeanor DUI — 90 days in jail

If the prosecutor accuses you of DUI with a passenger below 14 years of age, he or she must provide sufficient evidence for the court to convict you. This is because California VC 23572 is straightforward. If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor DUI in California, and the prosecutor proves that you were with a minor in your vehicle at the time of arrest, the child endangerment sentence enhancement applies automatically. It does not matter how you were driving, intoxication level, or if you never purported to hurt the minor. Under VC 23572, what matters is if a minor under 14 years was inside your vehicle when driving under the influence.

California PC 273a Child Endangerment

DUI with a passenger below 14 may attract convictions under California PC 273a for child endangerment apart from facing enhanced DUI penalties. If you endanger a minor's life, the charges under PC 273a apply. A child endangerment crime is a wobbler in California, and you might face misdemeanor or felony charges based on the extent or nature of the crime.

According to PC 273a, exposing a minor to suffering, pain, or danger is prohibited. Even if the minor passenger fails to sustain injuries or harm, you could still face child endangerment charges. You could face child endangerment charges because driving under alcohol or drug influence exposes a child to potential harm or danger.

The prosecutor should show several child endangerment elements for you to be guilty under PC 273a. The prosecutor should show that you willfully allowed a minor to undergo mental or physical suffering. The prosecutor should also provide sufficient evidence that you willfully exposed a child to danger, pain, or mental suffering. A minor may experience mental suffering because of the possible outcomes of driving under the influence, including severe accidents.

The prosecutor should show that you allowed a minor to be in a scenario where their health was at risk. The prosecutor could portray that you behaved negligently by allowing a minor to face or suffer inherent danger. If your action shows an inherent disregard for human life, you could be liable for criminal negligence. The prosecutor might allege that if a sober or a reasonable individual were in the same situation, they would not behave the same way as you. While determining if you acted negligently, the court will determine how a reasonable individual would have behaved in the same situation.

Challenging a DUI With Child Endangerment Sentence Enhancement

You can only face a penalty or punishment for a DUI with a minor less than 14 years if the court convicts you under VC 23152(a) DUI or VC23152(b) driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more. You must have committed the outlined violations while in the company of a minor under 14.

If your attorney challenges the DUI case successfully, it will be hard for the court to impose a penalty enhancement, yet you did not violate VC 23152(a) or VC 23152(b). In case your attorney fails to get an acquittal for your charges based on the standard DUI defenses, they can assist you in entering a plea bargain for a DUI conviction. By doing so, you could avoid sentence enhancement for DUI with a minor in the car. Your attorney may negotiate to have your DUI conviction reduced to a wet reckless. If your attorney challenges your BAC results, you may negotiate to reduce your charges to a dry reckless.

Wet Reckless Plea in DUI With a Passenger Below 14

Under California law, a wet reckless plea bargain is allowed in most DUI cases. The conditions that favor a wet reckless plea in a DUI with a passenger below 14 years include:

  • When a plea deal will result in a significant change in the jail term
  • When the prosecution fails to prove the DUI conviction because of weak evidence
  • When the prosecution fails to obtain testimony from a key witness

However, the prosecutor might have to state before the court reasons leading to the reduction if they agree to reduce your DUI conviction to a wet reckless offense. The prosecutor will also have to outline if the crime involved alcohol or drugs and circumstances supporting the decision.

Pleading to Wet Reckless in a DUI With a Passenger Below 14

Pleading to wet reckless driving is a better conviction when the court finds you guilty of a DUI with a passenger less than 14 years. This is because the penalties for wet reckless driving are less severe than those of a DUI with a passenger less than 14 years. However, you may also face other consequences of a wet reckless drive plea. The consequences may include:

  • The court might order an Ignition Lock Device (IID) installation in your car for three months. However, if you have prior DUI offenses, the court might require you to retain the ignition interlock device longer.
  • The court might require you to register and participate in an alcohol and drug awareness program as a condition for probation.
  • Wet reckless acts as a prior DUI charge. If the court finds you guilty of another DUI crime within ten years following the wet reckless previous charge, you will be a repeat DUI offender. A subsequent DUI means that you could be punished as a second-time offender rather than a first-time DUI.

Pleading to a Dry Reckless in a DUI with a Passenger Below 14

In California, a dry reckless plea is common for DUI convictions. This type of plea occurs when the court convicts you of violating VC 23152(a) or VC 23152(b), and you agree to plead guilty to a reduced conviction of VC 23103. Pleading to a dry reckless conviction has the following advantages:

  • No mandatory suspension of your driver's license
  • Lesser total fines charged.
  • Shorter probation period

Compared to a wet reckless, pleading guilty to a dry reckless is also a good idea because it does not qualify as a previous crime if you face an arrest for DUI in the future.

Facing Charges Under VC 23572 and PC 273a Simultaneously

Under PC 273a, child endangerment law in California is an additional offense convicted as a felony and, in some cases, as a misdemeanor. If you willfully place a child in a situation likely to cause harm or danger to their welfare, you might face the charges under PC 273a. The California courts put all DUIs involving a child under this category. If you are arrested for driving with a minor while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the prosecutor might charge you with:

  • DUI with a minor in the vehicle and child endangerment
  • Child endangerment as a separate offense
  • VC 23572 driving under the influence with a sentence enhancement

However, you may not be convicted of both offenses, even if the court finds you guilty of both crimes. According to VC 23572, California courts have no mandate to impose an additional sentence on an individual already convicted of child endangerment. On the other hand, the court has the mandate to charge you with DUI with a minor in the vehicle sentence enhancement and child endangerment. The prosecutor might charge you with child endangerment irrespective of:

  • Whether the DUI is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony
  • The child's age - anyone less than 18 years counts

Penalties for PC 273a Violation

You might face a sentence not exceeding a year in a California county jail if the court convicts you of a misdemeanor child endangerment. You could also face a sentence of two, four, or six years in a California State prison if the court convicts you of felony child endangerment. You might also have to pay a hefty fine not exceeding $10,000. If the child is not injured in the drunk driving incident, the standard punishment in child endangerment is:

  • Random alcohol and drugs testing during your probation period
  • Fines not exceeding $1,000
  • Six months incarceration over and above the DUI jail term
  • A court order prohibiting you from coming near the child that you endangered

Compared to VC 23572, penalties for child endangerment are more severe. You will only serve a maximum of six months in jail if the court convicts you of a DUI with a passenger less than 14 years of age.

Other Penalties for Child Endangerment

You might face a wide range of felony or misdemeanor penalties if the court charges you with child endangerment for DUI with a passenger below 14. Apart from fines and jail term, the other penalties you might  face are:

Three Strikes Law

Your child endangerment conviction could count as a strike under the California Three Strikes Law. You might get a strike on your record if you commit a DUI with a passenger below 14, and they suffer severe injuries. You could receive double sentencing if you had a prior strike on your criminal record.

Misdemeanor or Summary Probation

The judge may recommend misdemeanor probation, commonly known as summary or information probation, if the court charges you with a misdemeanor under PC 273a. Misdemeanor probation for child endangerment has a minimum period of four years. For the entire probation period, the judge may order you to stay away from alcohol or drugs. The court might offer you an early termination of probation if you adhere to all the terms of probation for the first two years.

For a felony conviction of child endangerment, you might face felony probation for a more extended period. Felony probation, also known as formal probation, has more severe conditions of probation than summary probation.

Custody Challenges in a DUI With a Passenger Below 14 Case

You might not have any custody challenges if the child was not yours. You are likely to face custody issues if the child you endangered is yours. In California, child endangerment law does not allow child removal from the parent's primary care. However, the California Child Protective Services (CPS) could register the DUI with a minor. The agency might intervene and have a minor taken from your primary care if they feel fit.

It is important you work with an experienced attorney to enhance your chances of winning the DUI case. Winning against a DUI with a passenger below 14 or enhanced child endangerment charges could prevent your family's separation and help you avoid a jail term. You should contact an attorney immediately to give them ample time to handle the CPS on your behalf and negotiate for your child's retention.

The CPS might decide to carry out their investigations and stay informed on your DUI charges with a passenger below 14 sentencing report. The CPS might look into the child's surroundings and home background to ensure that their welfare is well guaranteed. Cooperating with the investigators is important when this happens because it will prevent you from creating a wrong impression about yourself. However, you should not give the investigators all the information regarding your DUI case because they might use it to initiate further action or paint a bad image of you.

The CPS aims to find out if you are violent towards your children. They could interview those around you to see if you have habitually drink and drive. The investigators also try to determine if you provide your children’s basic needs, if you have an alcohol or drug addiction, and if your home is safe.  You could face intrusive questions from the investigators regarding your personal life or the DUI. It would be best if you refrained from becoming upset by their questions. They might also question your child privately. It is wise you avoid being defensive in such a case.

Contacting a defense attorney that has dealt with numerous DUI cases involving a passenger below 14 is a great idea. An attorney will negotiate for a reduced sentence or dismissal of your charges. The attorney must be familiar with the battle in the courtroom concerning DUI charges, how CPS investigations work, and understand the DMV's process.

You should never try to fight on your own because when the State assumes control of your child, it would be devastating for you. A qualified and competent DUI attorney understands what they can do to safeguard you from the possibility of losing your child. If a conviction is inevitable, your attorney will create the best defense for your DUI charge, ensuring that you serve the least possible sentence.

A competent defense attorney will do their best to deliver the best possible outcome, which includes safeguarding your driving license from being suspended and keeping you from going to jail. You will not fall victim to a malicious conviction of DUI with a passenger below 14 or child endangerment with a competent attorney. The fact that you were driving under alcohol or drug influence with a minor does not mean you hate or do not care about your child.

Available Defenses for the Crime of DUI With a Passenger Below 14

According to California VC 23152, a DUI with a passenger below 14 is a severe crime. You should seek legal help if you face charges for a DUI with a passenger below 14. An attorney will assist you in creating the best defense strategy.

Challenging the DUI case could help you avoid enhanced sentencing, especially in crimes involving DUI with a passenger below 14. You should not despair if the court finds you guilty of driving under the influence, as stated under California VC 23152(a) or VC 23152(b). A competent attorney could challenge the BAC results to prove that you were not intoxicated. You can challenge the DUI charges as follows:

Falsely High Blood Alcohol Content (BAC ) Results

If the prosecutor charges you with intoxicated driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more, you can cite false high blood alcohol content (BAC) as your defense. Some products, like mouthwash, could lead to elevated BAC results. Your attorney can challenge your DUI charge by pointing out that the elevated BAC readings are not due to intoxication but using mouthwash that causes mouth alcohol residue. California DUI testing depends on determining the alcohol present in your deep lung air. False high blood alcohol concentration results could be revealed if the breathalyzer measures mouth alcohol residue.

Inflated BAC

A medical condition like diabetes could lead to high BAC results. Your attorney can fight your DUI charges by stating that the elevated BAC results were due to an illness. You might also have high BAC results if you are on certain diets. Unusual high blood alcohol concentration results could result from a low carbohydrate or high protein diet. If you are fasting, high BAC results might manifest. These factors could lead to a malicious DUI conviction where your elevated BAC results were not because of intoxication but because of medical conditions or your diet. A competent attorney will obtain the necessary evidence to prove that you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the arrest.

Not Symptoms of Intoxication

The prosecutor might refer to several physical signs of intoxication during the court proceedings to prove that you were under alcohol or drug influence at the time of your arrest. Drowsiness, lack of balance, confusion, bloodshot eyes, and incoherent speech are common physical signs of intoxication. You may challenge your charge by alleging that lack of balance, red eyes, and confusion were because of discomfort or illness but not because of intoxication.

Contact a Bakersfield DUI Attorney Near Me

DUI with a passenger below 14 years attracts severe penalty enhancements, which could lead to a mandatory jail term. The jail term differs for a first DUI crime and subsequent DUI crimes. If you face a DUI with a passenger below 14 years charge, Bakersfield DUI Attorneys can assist. Reach us at 661-215-5660 and talk to one of our attorneys.