The importance of our children is expressed by a number of California laws.

For example, if you’re driving under the influence in California, and you have a child under age 14 as a passenger, the DUI penalty will be increased if you’re convicted.

What is the penalty for having a child with you if you’re convicted for DUI? What if you’re wrongly accused of driving under the influence?

If you’ll keep reading, you’ll learn those answers and more.

If you’re charged with driving under the influence in Southern California, you’ll need to reach out immediately to a skilled Orange County DUI defense attorney for sound legal advice and representation.

If it’s your first driving under the influence offense, and no one was harmed, you’ll probably be charged with misdemeanor DUI, and these are the possible penalties if you’re convicted:

– from four days to six months in jail
– a fine of $390 to $1000
– three to five years on probation
– enrollment in a court-ordered treatment program or alcohol education class
– a driver’s license suspension lasting from thirty days to six months

When the driver’s license suspension is lifted, offenders in Alameda, Los Angeles, Tulare, and Sacramento counties may be ordered to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles.

Beginning in 2019, that penalty will be applied to offenders statewide.

California motorists should also understand that they may incur additional costs after a DUI arrest such as towing and storage fees for the vehicle, bail costs, and more.

WHAT ARE DUI PENALTY ENHANCEMENTS?

While those are the “basic” penalties for a first-time driving under the influence conviction in California, those penalties can be increased or “enhanced” for a number of reasons.

Along with the penalty enhancement for having a child under the age of 14 as a passenger, California law also imposes penalty enhancements on convicted DUI offenders for these reasons:

– a blood alcohol content (BAC) level that measured at or above 0.15 percent
– refusal to submit to a DUI breath, blood, or urine test
-reckless driving and/or speeding, if the offender was moving at twenty or more miles per hour over the posted limit on a surface street or at thirty or more miles per hour over the limit on a freeway

What’s next is important.

California drivers should fully understand that while jail time may not be imposed for some misdemeanor DUI convictions, if you are convicted of any driving under the influence charge and a passenger under age 14 was in your vehicle, you will be ordered to serve mandatory time in jail along with the basic DUI penalty.

The penalty enhancement is an additional:

– forty-eight hours in jail for a first driving under the influence offense
– ten days for a second offense
– thirty days for a third offense
– ninety days for a fourth or subsequent DUI offense (if charged as a misdemeanor)

ISN’T A FOURTH DUI CHARGE WITHIN TEN YEARS A FELONY?

A fourth charge for driving under the influence within the previous ten years may be charged either as a felony or as a misdemeanor, but if the charge is a felony, the child endangerment enhancement will not be added.

Driving under the influence convictions (as well as “wet reckless” convictions) within the last ten years are considered “prior” DUI convictions under California law.

If you are accused of what California law calls “DUI with child endangerment,” it doesn’t matter if the child was yours or someone else’s, whether or not you intended to harm the child, how much you had to drink, or how erratically you were driving.

The law is concerned with only two issues:

– Were you guilty of driving under the influence?
– Was a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle when you were driving under the influence?

HOW SHOULD YOU DEAL WITH A DUI WITH CHILD IN CAR CHARGE?

Drivers should clearly understand that DUI penalty enhancements are applied only to defendants who are found guilty of both the underlying driving under the influence charge as well as the enhancement charge.

If you’re in Southern California, let an Orange County DUI defense attorney defend you if you are arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

An attorney will examine the details of the arrest and the charge against you.

Depending on those details, your attorney may craft a defense that challenges the legality of your arrest, the accuracy of any DUI tests that were performed, or any other aspect of the prosecution’s case.

Your attorney will probably seek to have the charge against you dismissed, but if the state’s case is strong, he or she may recommend a plea bargain instead.

If DUI with child endangerment is added as an enhancement to the DUI charge, a plea bargain – pleading guilty to either wet reckless or dry reckless – means the child endangerment enhancement will be dismissed.

ISN’T THERE ANOTHER CHILD ENDANGERMENT LAW?

The DUI and DUI with child endangerment laws are a part of the state’s Vehicle Code, but California drivers should also understand that under the state’s Penal Code, California has a separate child endangerment law that is distinct from the DUI enhancement.

The state’s Penal Code outlaws willfully placing any child in a circumstance where that child’s health and/or welfare is endangered.

When an intoxicated motorist drives with a passenger under the age of 14, a California prosecutor may charge the driver with the DUI sentencing enhancement, or the prosecutor may instead choose to file a separate child endangerment charge along with the DUI charge.

However, a California court may not impose the DUI enhancement penalty on a motorist convicted of child endangerment under the Penal Code for the same incident.

WHAT IS CALIFORNIA’S CRIMINAL PENALTY FOR CHILD ENDANGERMENT CHARGES?

The separate child endangerment charge can be brought by the state for any passenger under the age of 18, and it may be filed whether the DUI is charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

Under the state’s Penal Code, a conviction for misdemeanor child endangerment is punishable by up to a year in jail, and a conviction for felony child endangerment is punishable by up to six years in state prison.

All of these legal problems, of course, are entirely avoidable – provided that you don’t drink and drive.

Using a designated driver or a ride-for-hire is always the smartest choice, even if you’re only having one drink.

Especially if your child is with you – or someone else’s – you really must place the welfare of the child first.

The state of California does.

Whenever children are involved in a legal matter, prosecutors in California can be quite aggressive.

If you are charged with driving under the influence in southern California– whether or not you had a child as a passenger – don’t wait. Get the legal help you need, and get it immediately.