You Need a DUI Attorney
Driving while under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or any other substance that can impair a driver is taken extremely seriously by authorities everywhere. According to some estimates, one person dies every 50 minutes in a crash that was caused by an alcohol-impaired driver. In the state of California alone, nearly 1,000 people die every year because of people who are driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances. These are very frightening facts and the reason that authorities take a harsh stand when it comes to dealing with DUIs. The penalties for a DUI are significant and get worse as a person is convicted of more and more DUI.
When a person is charged with a DUI and there happens to be a minor in the vehicle, the penalties become much more severe since the law does not look kindly on the child being placed in such a dangerous situation. In the best possible outcome upon conviction, having a minor in the car will cause the presiding judge to hand down a much harsher sentence. In the worst possible scenario, having a minor in the car can also lead to separate charges being filed and the driver facing even more punishment. How much more severe the case becomes when a child is involved will depend on the specific circumstances of the case, how far authorities want to go with it, and other factors. The best thing that you can do once you are charged with a DUI while a minor is in the car is to contact an experienced DUI attorney who can take a good look at every aspect of your case and fully advise you about your options and the best way to move forward.
Penalties for a DUI with a Minor in the Car
Although being charged with a separate offense is a very real possibility when a person is charged with a DUI with a minor in the vehicle, most times, authorities simply choose to pursue harsher penalties for the DUI itself. Of course, this includes the suspension of the driver’s license, time behind bars, steep fines, and other possible punishments. For example, a driver who is convicted of his or her first DUI in California faces jail time of up to 6 months, fines of $390 to $1,000, a license suspension of up to 6 months, and other penalties. But if a child under 14 was in the motor vehicle while the driver was operating it under the influence of alcohol or other substances, it could be treated as an “aggravated DUI” or worse, effectively making the punishment more severe. The circumstances surrounding the case matter to a great extent, especially how much alcohol the driver actually had in his or her system. There are big differences when it comes to the different ways that a driver can be charged when under the influence of alcohol or other substances and there is a minor in the vehicle.
A Close Look at Penalties for a DUI with a Minor in the Vehicle
Getting a DUI charge is not as straightforward as it sounds because there are various degrees that authorities can choose to pursue depending on mitigating or aggravating factors such as how intoxicated or impaired the driver happens to be. In fact, there are cases where drivers who are actually below the legal alcohol limit are charged with DUI simply because the law enforcement officers who happen to stop them believe that they are impaired. If a driver is heavily intoxicated, say at double the legal limit, that can lead to a charge of extreme DUI or aggravated DUI. Of course, different states deal with everyday DUIs and DUIs that involve minors differently.
In the state of California, the law sees a DUI with a minor in the vehicle as a “DUI with child endangerment”, but there is a huge difference in the penalties that a driver in such a situation may face because of the ways that the law can choose to handle the case. If authorities choose to pursue a misdemeanor child endangerment charge, the driver can be facing up to one year of jail time on top of fines and other penalties. If the state pursues felony child endangerment charges, the driver will be facing up to six years in state prison and that can change a person’s life drastically even after he or she serves that time. The record will remain and that can affect the possibility of employment and even housing, not to mention how personal and family relationships will suffer as a result. That is why anyone in this situation has to contact a good DUI attorney as soon as he or she is able to do so. The penalties will be even greater if the child is hurt or killed because of an accident. When a child dies in an accident that involves a driver under the influence, that driver will most likely be charged with murder and that can lead to life imprisonment.
Possible Defenses Against a DUI with a Minor in the Car
If you have read this far, you must realize what a serious offense a DUI with a minor in the vehicle is and that it must be taken as seriously as possible because if the state obtains a conviction, the ramifications can be undeniably extreme. The importance of seeking legal counsel cannot be overstated. There are various tactics that can be employed in order to get a DUI with a minor dismissed or at the very least downgraded so that the penalties are not as severe.
One of these tactics involves questioning whether the law enforcement officer who stopped you had a legal right to do so according to the law. You would be amazed how many DUI cases get thrown out because the officer did not actually have reasonable suspicion that the driver was intoxicated and, therefore, stopped the vehicle illegally. If the driver complied with a breathalyzer test or another chemical sobriety test, a competent DUI lawyer will challenge the result of any of those tests and might be able to suppress them as evidence. There are a lot more tactics that can be used in order to defend against a DUI with a minor, but what will work best in your particular case is something that you will have to discuss personally with your attorney.