If you are arrested for DUI and there was a child in the vehicle with you at the time, you may be subject to additional criminal penalties. Vehicle Code Section 23572 allows prosecutors to seek enhanced penalties on DUI cases if there were children in the vehicle under the age of 14. Prosecutors may charge you under this section if they believe that you put a child at risk by driving impaired.
Enhanced penalties are those in addition to any other sentence imposed. For example, a first time DUI offense does not carry any mandatory jail time if probation is granted. However, if the child endangerment enhancement is proven then the court must impose a minimum 48 hour jail sentence. Thus, despite this being a person's first DUI offense, he/she would have to serve 48 hours in jail. A second time DUI offense carries a minimum 96 hour jail sentence if probation is granted. If the child endangerment allegation is proven on a second DUI offense then the court must impose an additional 10 days of jail. Instead of a 96 hour jail sentence, a person in this situation would be facing 14 days jail (10 days + 96 hours).
If a child under 14 years of age was in your vehicle at the time of your DUI arrest, it is within the discretion of the prosecuting agency whether to file a child endangerment allegation in addition to the DUI charges. If there was more than one child in the car then multiple allegations may be filed. Factors that the prosecutor will consider in making this decision include the alleged level of impairment (e.g., the person's blood alcohol content) and the driving pattern. A driver with a BAC of .16 (twice the legal limit) that gets into an accident with a child in their vehicle is much more likely to be charged with the child endangerment enhancement than a driver with a BAC of .08 who was stopped at a DUI checkpoint.
Additionally, when a child is present in the vehicle during a DUI, prosecutors can also choose to file a separate child endangerment charge under Penal Code Section 273a. Filing of this charge is usually reserved for cases involving multiple aggravating factors, including a high BAC, accident, child not in seatbelt, and prior DUI convictions. This is a very serious charge as it may prompt a Department of Children and Family Services review of a person's parental rights.
If you have been arrested for DUI and are facing additional allegations or charges due to a child being present in your vehicle at the time, it is best to have a good DUI attorney by your side. CONTACT Berglund Law Office, P.C. today for a free and confidential consultation.