Child Endangerment – DUI with a Passenger Under the Age of 14

The consequences mandated for a DUI conviction in California are determined by the incident of the DUI and if it included any aggravating factors, such as whether there was a passenger in the vehicle and what the passenger’s age was. If there was a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 14 when you were arrested for DUI, you may also face a “child endangerment” (VC 34572) charge. In deciding your sentence, the courts will take two questions into account.

  1. Were you in physical control of an automobile while under the influence?
  2. If there was a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time of arrest?

California Penal Code 273(a) punishes a person who willfully places a child under the age of 14 in a position that excessively risks the child’s health and/or wellbeing. Driving under the influence with a child under the age of 14 satisfies this statute.  The charge of child endangerment can be brought as a felony or misdemeanor and is determined by the specific circumstances of the incident. If you have been charged with a DUI and child endangerment, it is imperative to have a legal defense comprised of experienced legal professionals. Our team has handled and been successful in reducing, or eliminating previous clients’ child endangerment charges.

A Victory on your DUI charge means Victory on your Child Endangerment Charge

Many people do not know that you may be charged for a DUI in California for multiple reasons. In order for someone to be convicted of DUI, a prosecutor must prove one of three things “beyond a reasonable doubt”

  1. You were operating a motor vehicle with at least a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08%;
  2. You were operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol; or
  3. You were operating the motor vehicle under the influence of drugs.

Many people do not know there is a difference between 1 and 2. There is a common misconception that one needs to have a BAC of .08% to be guilty of DUI.  Someone with a BAC under the legal limit may be convicted of a DUI if their driving ability is impaired due to alcohol or drugs. In order to prove that a person was impaired, the prosecutor must show that, because of the drugs or alcohol in a person’s system, that person was unable to drive like a reasonable sober driver. The law simply assumes your driving ability was impaired if you have a BAC of .08%.

It is the prosecutor’s burden to prove that you meet one of the three categories. The fact that it is the prosecutor’s burden allows us to expose the holes in the prosecution’s case. If the prosecution fails to meet its burden of proof that you were under the influence or your driving ability was impaired, the court is forced to drop the charges against you. The attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm have plenty of experience in successfully arguing some DUI defenses. The most common are:

Incorrect Positive Test Results

Occasionally, the officer’s equipment used to test you BAC is not working correctly. This can result in an incorrect BAC reading. Results stemming from a breath test have been criticized for years. There are also many other factors that can lead to higher alcohol levels in your mouth. These factors can be as simple as having recently burped or a recent dental procedure, and can cause a false positive result. Other factors to be considered are dietary and health conditions can lead to an inaccurate result.

Increasing Blood Alcohol

Sometimes, if you are arrested after recently drinking alcohol, your BAC will be higher when tested than when you were driving.

Absence of Probable Cause

Once again, the police must have a valid reason to stop you, and conduct a sobriety test. The police must provide precise facts that exemplify that you were intoxicated before they can make you take any form of sobriety test.

Your Miranda Rights Were Not Read to You

If you were questioned after your DUI arrest, the police must have read you your Miranda Rights. If you were not read your Miranda Rights, then any evidence collected as a result of that questioning can be suppressed.

Unlawful DUI Checkpoint

The police are required to administer their DUI checkpoints pursuant specific procedural rules. If they fail to do so, any evidence collected against you resulting from an illegal checkpoint can be suppressed.

Failure to act Pursuant to Title 17

The state of California requires adherence to specific procedural rules on how breath and blood tests can be taken, stowed, and examined. Failure to adhere to these standards can lead to the evidence collected being suppressed.

Therefore, you want to make sure that you hire an attorney who knows when and how to properly assert these defenses in order to maximize your chances to receive the best result possible. Contact us today, so we can begin building your defense.

A court cannot charge you for child endangerment if we get your charges down to “wet reckless” or “dry reckless.”

An attorney can help you get a plea bargain depending on the strength and amount of evidence against you. A plea bargain is a settlement that both sides have agreed to, the settlement is negotiated between your attorney and the prosecutor. A plea bargain allows you to know what sentence you will be receiving before you plea guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Plea bargains are often looked at as the best option to take, and can result in less severe penalties one may receive than the ones the client will be facing at trial. The attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm know how to handle DUI and child endangerment cases to ensure you that the plea bargain being offered to you is truly your best available option. A plea bargain of wet reckless or dry reckless will result in your child endangerment penalties being dismissed.

Increased Penalties

If you are found guilty of DUI and child endangerment, then you will receive a punishment for each violation. The punishment handed down will depend on if you have any previous criminal DUI convictions or not.

DUI Punishments

  • The court may add 48 hours to your sentence if it is your first DUI conviction.
  • For a second DUI conviction, the court can increase your DUI sentence by 10 days.
  • For a third DUI conviction, the court can increase your DUI sentence by 30 days, or can choose to charge you with an additional misdemeanor DUI conviction.
  • For a fourth DUI conviction, the court can increase your DUI sentence by 90 days or can choose to charge you with an additional misdemeanor DUI conviction.

Only prior convictions within a 10-year period will affect the sentencing of your current conviction. If there is no severe injury or death involved with your DUI arrest, it should be a misdemeanor charge. A fourth DUI conviction is considered a “wobbler,” where a prosecutor can charge your DUI as a misdemeanor or as a felony.

Punishments for Child Endangerment

Penal Code 273(a) PC or the California child endangerment law, allows someone to be charged with child endangerment no matter if the DUI is charged as a misdemeanor or felony, or even what the minor passenger’s age was.

A person can be charged with DUI with a sentence enhancement, child endangerment, or both, if they drive while under the influence with a child that is under the age of 14. If convicted of a child endangerment charge, a person can face from 1 to 6 years in a state prison of California, dependent on if the DUI charge is brought as a felony or misdemeanor.

If you are charged with a felony DUI, a “strike” will be added to your record. The consequences of having a strike one your record are very severe. If you have a previous strike or acquire another in the future, it puts you at risk of California’s three-strike rule. If you receive two strikes, the sentence for your second strike crime is automatically doubled. If you receive a third strike, the court requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in a California state prison.

The courts take DUI charges that involve child endangerment charges very seriously. Our attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm are dedicated to the specialized practice of handling these types of cases.

The Prosecutor must prove the following for you to be convicted of Child Endangerment pursuant Penal Code 273a:

  1. Willfully causing, or permitting a child to be injured while in your custody.
  2. Willfully causing, or permitting a child to be in a situation where injury is possible under your custody.
  3. Causing unreasonable mental or physical harm to a child in your custody.

Remember, a child does not need to suffer an actual injury for a person to be convicted of child endangerment under California Penal Code 273a. Therefore, you must understand how critical it is to have a legal team that is knowledgeable on the subject and has plenty of experience dealing with these cases. Lacking a solid legal team in these cases can leave you susceptible to be convicted of child endangerment.

Moreover, recognize that California Penal Code 273a requires that a person accused of child endangerment act willfully or willingly. What this means it that, in order for a court to find you guilty of child endangerment, a prosecutor must prove that you acted intentionally. If there is no evidence that your conduct was done intentionally, then you may have a strong defense. Think about the example given below

Dave is attending a child’s party with his son, Stan. At the party, Dave mistakenly drinks alcoholic beer thinking that it was non-alcoholic beer. Thinking that he has not been drinking, Dave then leaves the party, and drives home with his son, Stan, in the car. As Dave is driving home, he is stopped on suspicion that he is driving under the influence. Dave then fails the field sobriety tests, and a breath test, resulting in him being charged with DUI and child endangerment. During his trial, Dave’s attorney states that Dave did not realize he was intoxicated because he believed he was drinking non-alcoholic beer. Since Dave did not realize he was intoxicated, there is no way that Dave could have willingly put Stan in any danger. By not being aware he was putting Stan at risk, the child endangerment charges against Dave should be dismissed.

Although involuntary intoxication cases are rare, this scenario shows how one must have the required mental state to be convicted of a Child Endangerment charge.

Most Common Child Endangerment examples resulting in PC 273a charges:

  • Failing to procure medical treatment for a sick child.
  • Leaving loaded guns, knives, or weapons in a home accessible to children.
  • Knowingly leaving a child with an abusive babysitter.

The experienced team of attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm can help build a strong Child Endangerment defense case. Our Attorneys have successfully advocated and had much experience handling these cases for many years. Contact us for your FREE consultation, where our attorneys will hear your case and provide you with a few of possible defense options available to you.

The Most Common Defenses for a Child Endangerment charge.

Our team of attorneys has successfully argued and handled several Child Endangerment defenses. Acknowledge that most of the defenses mentioned below are not applicable in a Child Endangerment case following a DUI arrest. The best way to get a DUI child endangerment charge dismissed is to dismiss the DUI charge itself.

You were not acting willfully

As explained in the example above, willfulness must be present for the prosecution to have a child endangerment case against you. In order to be found guilty, the prosecution must prove that you willingly subjected the child to a risk of danger. Parents cannot always protect their kids from danger 100% of the time. Many children place themselves in dangerous situations. Thus, if you acted reasonably, you cannot be found to have acted willfully.

You were disciplining your Child

Reasonably disciplining your child should not leave you susceptible to child endangerment. California is sympathetic to “reasonable” corporal disciplining of children. In example, a parent who disciplines their child by spanking the child does not lead to a Child Endangerment conviction.

Being Falsely Accused and Wrongfully Arrested

There are common misunderstandings that lead to a false assumption that a parent is responsible for endangering a child. Wrongful arrests have occurred where a child has embellished the facts, whether it was intentional or not. Also, in some cases, it was not the child but maybe a spouse, ex-spouse, or a third party who has a purpose to falsely blame another person for child endangerment. Many of these false accusations tend to happen if there are ongoing divorce proceedings between the two parties.

If you are facing a DUI and/or child endangerment charge, allow our attorneys to assist you. Call the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm at 949-377-2280 for a FREE consultation, where our attorneys will assess your case and provide you with honest, well-informed advice on how to proceed and build the strongest defense for your case.