It is criminal to drive under the influence of either drugs or alcohol in California. The offense is punishable by lengthy jail or prison sentences and hefty fines. Penalties become severe if caught driving under the influence with a passenger below 14 years of age, in the interest of safeguarding the lives of children. You then risk facing DUI and child endangerment charges.

The stakes are high if arrested for DUI with a passenger under 14 years in Anaheim. It is in your best interest to engage an experienced criminal attorney to fight these charges. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, our team is ready to be o assistance in the case. We will guide you through the legal complexities and mount a solid defense to fight the charges. And to start the process, we address the areas of interest in a DUI with a passenger under 14 years you should know.

Overview of DUI in California

VC 23572 offers a blueprint as to what constitutes driving under the influence. Detailed in the law are the definitions of the various DUI offenses, what prosecutors must prove for a conviction, as well as the penalties a conviction leads to. Further, the law addresses aggravating factors, among them DUI with a passenger under 14. It’s best to have insight into the various DUI offenses before addressing DUI with a passenger under 14 years.

DUI offenses start from misdemeanors and escalate progressively with every subsequent DUI arrest and conviction. First-time DUI offenders face misdemeanor penalties upon conviction. The punishment includes summary probation that should be served for three to five years and a fine of between $390 to $1,000. Additionally, the offenders will be required to pay penalty assessments, serve a 6-moth driver’s license suspension, attend a court-mandated DUI program, and install an Ignition Interlock device in their cars. The second and third DUI offenses are also misdemeanors. You will face these charges if you are arrested for a DUI offense within ten years of the previous arrest and subsequent conviction, you will face these charges. A fourth DUI conviction escalates to a felony charge.

Take note, the above DUI offenses will be the initial cause for arrest. The presence of aggravating factors then enhances your penalties. Having a child under the age of 14 years while driving under the influence is one such aggravating factor. The sentence enhancements are similar despite the DUI charges you face. The specific enhancements issued will be based on the circumstances of your case and criminal history.

DUI With a Passenger Under 14 Years

California is big on child protection. This is why DUI with a passenger under 14 years attracts sentence enhancements because you committed a crime, driving under the influence while putting the child’s life at risk. Prosecutors may decide to pursue two charges. You could be charged for the DUI offense and additionally face child endangerment charges or charges under VC 23572. 

Driving under the influence with a child as a passenger violates VC 23572. Prosecutors must prove the following to secure a conviction for the offense. They have to establish that:

  • You were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the arrest, and
  • There was a child below 14 years of age in the vehicle at the time of the arrest

In proving that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they will rely on VC 23152. They must prove that your blood alcohol content (BAC) was above the limit of .08%. Since drug testing does not have a set limit, their evidence for drug intoxication will be based on the report from the drug recognition experts (DRE). DRE are law officers with special training in identifying individuals under the influence of narcotics.

The child’s presence in the vehicle at the time of the arrest completes the VC 23572 violation.

Penalties You Could Face If Convicted Under VC 23572

As previously mentioned, prosecutors pursue two charges under VC 23572. First, the DUI offense, followed by having a child in the car while driving drunk. Therefore, you will be penalized for the DUI offense and receive additional penalties for the child’s presence in the car. 

Here is a breakdown of the penalties issued against every conviction. It is worth noting that there are statutory penalties for DUI crimes. However, most counties in California issue varying penalties. Here are the penalties you will receive in Anaheim, Orange County 

First-time DUI Offense

A first DUI offense is a misdemeanor, and it attracts the following penalties:

  • Summary probation that remains in effect for three years
  • Completing a one-day MAAD course (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
  • Fines and penalties amounting to $2,000
  • Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for six months The device only starts if an alcohol-free breath sample is provided.
  • A six-month license suspension
  • Completion of a three-month court-mandated DUI/drug program.

An additional 48 hours will be added to your sentence for having a child passenger while driving under the influence.

Second-time DUI Offense

Second-time DUI offenses materialize when you are arrested for a DUI offense following the first DUI conviction ten years prior. A conviction results in the following penalties:

  • Three to five-year-long summary probation
  • Fines and penalties amounting to $2,000
  • Completing an 18 to 30-month court-mandated DUI/drug program
  • Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for one year
  • Jail time ranging from 96 hours to one year. Second-time DUI offenders can also be required to serve 45 to 90 days in jail. However, this may be converted to either home confinement or Caltrans, where DUI offenders are sent to do roadside works as punishment for their DUI offense.
  • Judges may also require descendants to participate in certain hours of community service.

An extra ten days will be added to your sentence if convicted for having a child passenger while driving intoxicated.

Third-time DUI Offense

You commit a third-time DUI offense if you are arrested and charged for a DUI within ten years of your first DUI offense. Penalties for this offense include:

  • Summary probation for three to five years
  • Fines and penalties amounting to $2,800
  • Completing a 30-moth court-mandated DUI/drug program
  • A minimum jail sentence of 120 days or more
  • Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for two years
  • A three-year driver’s license suspension

An extra 30 days in jail will be added to your sentence due to a guilty verdict under VC 23572.

Fourth-time DUI Offense

Prosecutors may either pursue felony or misdemeanor charges for fourth DUI offenses. Penalties for the offense include:

  • A three-year minimum imprisonment
  • A fine of up to $1,000 and penalty assessments as directed by the judge
  • A four-year driver’s license suspension
  • 18 to 30 months of a court-mandated DUI /drug program
  • A Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) tag that remains in effect for three years

An extra 90 days behind bars will be added to your sentence, following a conviction under VC 23572.

Certain circumstances increase the likelihood of additional penalties. Courts analyze each case on its merits and assign punishments commensurate to the aggravating factors present in the case. Some of the factors considered include:

  • Having a BAC level of 0.15% or higher
  • Causing a crash
  • Refusing to submit to a DUI test
  • Driving at excessive speeds or recklessly — Driving 20 or 30 mph above the speed limit or reckless driving results in an additional 60-day jail sentence
  • Driving while under 21 years at the time of the VC 23572 offense
  • DUI causing injury — You can either be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor offenders would receive an additional one year in jail if the victim suffered an injury and a one to three-year driver’s license suspension. Felony offenders, on the other hand, will receive an HTO status, earn a strike in their criminal record under the Three Strikes Law, receive an additional one year behind bars, and receive a 5-year driver’s license suspension. Three to six years will be added to your sentence If the victim suffered significant physical harm.

Child Endangerment

PC 273a makes intentionally exposing a child to unjustifiable danger, pain, or suffering an offense. You could still face these changes even if the child did not suffer any pain or physical harm.

Driving under the influence with a child passenger unnecessarily risks the child’s life. Such action satisfies the elements pivotal in a child endangerment offense. Prosecutors may charge you for VC 23572 violation and child endangerment. You will receive penalties for each offense. This means that prosecutors will not pursue a DUI sentence enhancement. 

Child endangerment is a wobbler. Prosecutors may elect to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges. Their choice is informed by the degree of risk you exposed the child to. You wil receive a jail sentence not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding $1,000 for a misdemeanor violation.

Misdemeanor penalties are issued if there was no risk of significant physical injury or death to the child. Failing to stop at a designated stop area, having a not-so-high BAC level, driving below 20 MPH above the speed limit, or slightly weaving within your lane are examples of actions that could result in misdemeanor charges.

You would face felony charges if the minor was exposed to a risk of death or significant bodily harm. Punishments include a 2, 4, or 6-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $110,000.

Additionally, a child endangerment conviction will result in random drug testing, mandatory counseling, or a protective order being issued against you. The order prevents you from contacting the child whose life you endangered.

Legal Defenses

The consequences of a conviction extend beyond fines and jail or prison time. Your social and career life will be adversely impacted. Those around you will cut back on time spent with you, especially in public. Additionally, your professional license may be affected.

Legal representations increase the possibility of a dismissal of your case or reduce the penalties a conviction results in. It is the best way to mitigate the life-altering impact of a conviction. Here are a few defense strategies your attorney may opt for. 

You Were Not Driving Under the Influence

DUI is central in a DUI with a passenger under 14 years’ case. Without a DUI charge, all other charges will be dropped. That is, you wil not face child endangerment chase or enhanced penalties if you are not found guilty of driving under the influence. Some of the approaches your attorney could use include:

  1. Poor Driving Is Not Indicative Of Driving Under The Influence

Police officers need probable cause to stop you. In most cases, poor driving will automatically result in a stop. Police officers may assume your driving is a result of drunk driving. However, drugs and alcohol are not the only contributing factors to poor driving. Fatigue, drowsiness, or a few minutes of entertaining a distraction could lead to poor driving. If this was your situation, your charges could be dropped.

  1. Signs of Intoxication Do Not Automatically Point to DUI

You may exhibit signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, unsteady gait, alcoholic odor, flushed face, or red or watery eyes. These signs are exhibited by individuals who are on drugs or have consumed alcohol. However, the signs could point to another issue other than drugs or alcohol. You could have had an allergic reaction, been tried, suffered from eye irritation, or had a cold. Additionally, an alcohol odor could have resulted from food or medication you consumed.

Police officers cannot link the above signs to alcohol or drug use with certainty. This then creates a possibility for the DUI charge to be challenged.

  1. False BAC Tests Results

Faulty equipment and human error can compromise a BAC test. Therefore, its results will be questionable. Breathalyzers are required to be stored correctly. Additionally, police officers follow strict procedures on how to administer the test. This does not mean that the officers strictly follow the guidelines. For example, officers should keenly observe you for 15 minutes before administering the test. They must ensure you do not consume any food, medication, drinks, or other substance containing alcohol as it would falsely raise your BAC level.

Experienced attorneys know the right approach to challenge the results, forcing the prosecution to drop the charges.

  1. Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests

The reliability of field sobriety tests (FSTs) has been questioned over the years. The results have been deemed inaccurate because of the lack of a holistic consideration of what causes an individual to fail the test.

For example, a lack o coordination or balance is interpreted as a failed test with the assumption that alcohol or drugs as the culprits. However, fatigued individuals, those with tight clothing, drowsy or sick individuals are also likely to fail the test. Additionally, you can’t also walk in a straight line or maintain balance on uneven ground.

With sufficient evidence to prove this argument, your attorney will present it with the aim of a dismissal o your case.

  1. Proper Procedure Wasn’t Followed

Police activities are governed by a set of rules. In DUI cases, Title 17 takes precedence. It details the guidelines to be followed when administering and handling blood, urine, and breath tests.

For blood tests, Title 17 requires:

  • An authorized technician to handle the blood draw
  • No alcohol-based cleaning agents should be used in sterilizing the draw site
  • The amount of preservatives and anticoagulants in th blood vial should be sufficient. Both substances prevent blood clotting or fermentation, which inflates the blood alcohol readings.
  • That preservatives or anticoagulants must not have expired
  • Proper stoae of the blood sample
  • The sample to be adequately mixed with the preservatives or anticoagulants
  • The sample be retained for one year to allow for retesting by an independent laboratory

Title 17 lists the following as the guidelines to be allowed when administering DUI breath tests:

  • The breath sample should be alveolar air. This comes from deep lung air
  • You should remain under observation 15 minutes before providing a beat test
  • You should not smoke, drink, eat, regurgitate, or vomit during the 15 minutes
  • Breathalyzers should be calibrated every ten days, or 150 uses, whichever comes first

As for urine tests, the following procedures should be followed:

  • Anyone subjected to a urine test must first void their bladder and provide a urine sample 20 minutes later. Any sample taken before then is unreliable.
  • Your urine sample should be retained for one year. This allows for retesting by a different laboratory.

Any violation of the above guidelines creates an opening to challenge the validity of the results tabled as evidence against you.

Your Passenger was Ove 14 Years

Having an over 14-year-old passenger does not mean no charges will be imposed on you. You just avoid being prosecuted for driving under the influence with a minor below 14 years. However, child endangerment charges will remain if the minor was beyond 14 years (but below 18 years) at the time of the incident.

A minor above 14 years helps reduce your penalties but does not lead to an outright dismissal of your charges.

Wet or Dry Reckless as a Plea Bargain Option

Prosecutors may have insufficient evidence to guarantee your conviction for driving under the influence with a passenger under 14 years.  As a result, they may seek you plead guilty to a lesser charge, one that they can prove. You may be required to plead guilty to a wet or dry reckless charge.

Wet reckless refers to reckless driving, a violation of VC 23103. This violation is not a crime that you can be charged with upon arrest. It is only introduced as a DUI plea bargain charge. It includes a notation indicating the use of drugs or alcohol. On the other hand, a dry reckless conviction acknowledges your reckless driving but omits mention of drug or alcohol use.

Accepting the plea deal or not and whether it is beneficial for you depends on the circumstances of your case. Having a DUI or a wet reckless charge in the last ten years increases the penalties of your current charge. This is because a DUI or wet reckless charge is a priorable offense.

However, pleading guilty to a wet reckless charge results in:

  • Lower fines — A fine not exceeding $1,000 is imposed for wet reckless offenders. However, the court may impose additional penalties amounting to $3,000
  • Reduced jail terms — A wet reckless charge is penalized by 90 days in jail. For priorable wet reckless convictions, you will be required to spend a minimum of 90 days for a second DUI offense and 120 days for a third-time offense.
  • Shorter probation periods — If probation terms are issued in lieu of jail time, you will have one to two years on probation.
  • Reduced time required to be spent in a DUI program — First-time wet reckless convictions lead to a 6-week alcohol education course. Any prior wet reckless convictions result in 9-moths long DUI courses.
  • No court-mandated license driver’s suspension — However, the DMV can issue a license suspension order as a determination after a hearing.
  • Reduced impact on professional licenses — Professional license suspensions are determined and upheld independent of court proceedings. However, the cases trigger investigations. DUI charges have a significant impact and may almost certainly result in a suspension. Wet reckless charges, however, have less impact.

Contact a Reputable Criminal Attorney With Experience in DUI Cases Near Me

DUI cases, as with many criminal cases, are challenging. The risks posed if the outcome of the case is not favorable are significant and will impact your social and professional life adversely. You, therefore, cannot afford not to hire an experienced attorney. A reliable attorney will be invested in your case to ensure you have a favorable outcome. This is our promise at California Criminal Lawyer Group.

Call us today at 714-766-0965 if you or your loved one faces DUI with a passenger under 14 years’ charges in Anaheim.