Drunk driving is a dangerous behavior that threatens the lives of other road users. Strict laws are in place, and numerous campaigns are conducted every year to curb the problem. Still, California registers a high number of drunk driving cases every year. If you are caught driving while intoxicated, you will face severe DUI charges, punished by a long time in jail/prison, and a hefty fine. Other consequences apply, including possibly losing your driver’s license temporarily or permanently. A conviction also leaves you with a damaging criminal record that could significantly affect your life, including your efforts to find suitable employment.
Drunk driving charges become even stiffer if you have a passenger below 14 years in the car when the police arrest you. You will need the help of a skilled criminal lawyer to fight your charges to avoid the consequences of a conviction. If you or your loved one faces charges for driving while drunk/drugged with a passenger aged below 14 in Riverside, allow us to study the details of your case at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. We deal with issues like these every day and have just the right strategies to convince the jury to reduce or dismiss your charges.
California Drunk Driving Laws
Alcohol and drugs impair a person’s physical and mental abilities. These are abilities needed in driving. Operating a vehicle requires excellent focus and the ability to control the car. You cannot successfully or safely drive a car if your physical and mental skills are impacted.
Thus, drunk driving is considered a severe offense across the country. All states have strict laws against DUI, severely punishing those found guilty. California is among the states with the most stringent DUI laws. It has severe penalties for anyone convicted of DUI, which increase with every prior DUI conviction on your record.
The law against drunk driving in California is under VC 23152. You will face DUI charges if you are arrested for operating a car while intoxicated and/or with a BAC of .08% or more. Thus, you can face two counts of drunk driving in California. First offenders receive a maximum jail time of six months and fines of up to $2,000 after conviction. Additionally, the DMV will suspend your driver’s license. The judge can place you on probation and order you to complete an alcohol/drug treatment program.
DUI is a priorable offense in California. A previous conviction within ten years will impact your penalties for the next DUI charge. For instance, a second DUI occurs when you have a prior DUI conviction within 10 years. Though it is also a misdemeanor like the first DUI, you will face stiffer penalties upon conviction. For instance, you could receive a year of jail time and lose your license to suspension for two years.
The third DUI is a misdemeanor in California, while the fourth and proceeding DUI charges are felonies. It helps to engage the assistance of a skilled criminal lawyer if there is a DUI charge against you in California. Your lawyer will smoothen the legal process, offer quality advice, and plan a solid defense against your charges. The judge could decide to dismiss or reduce your charges.
Drunk Driving With a Passenger Below 14 in California
DUI is a serious charge, and it becomes more severe if it involves a minor. California law is highly protective of minors (persons below the legal age of 18). Anyone below the legal age of 18 is considered incapable of making rational decisions and protecting themselves. Adults should ensure children are safe at all times. Any conduct that could endanger a minor is highly punishable in California, including operating a car while intoxicated and with a minor below 14 in the car.
Penalties for drunk driving in California are severe. The law provides penalty enhancement for any aggravating factor in a person’s DUI case. An aggravating factor is any factor that will increase the severity of an offense. Having a minor of below 14 in your vehicle is an aggravating factor that increases the severity of your DUI charge. You will receive a harsher punishment than you could receive for an ordinary DUI conviction for operating a car with a minor while drunk or drugged.
Sentence enhancement applies for various DUI charges provided under the law. For instance, if there is a first DUI charge against you and a minor of below 14 in the vehicle, you will receive penalties for the DUI charge and an additional penalty for the aggravating factor. A skilled criminal lawyer will explain how sentence enhancement applies in your situation depending on your criminal history.
California law against drunk driving with a passenger below fourteen is under Vehicle Code 23572. The law provides guidelines for a sentence enhancement for those drivers guilty of operating a car while intoxicated and had a passenger below 14 in the vehicle. The sentence enhancement is provided in addition to standard penalties for various DUI charges determined by the defendant’s criminal history and severity of the crime. Additionally, the driver could face charges for endangering the child. You can face a conviction for two severe charges for the same offense.
A conviction under California vehicle Code 23572 happens after the district attorney proves all elements of the offense beyond reasonable doubts. These elements are:
- You were driving while drunk or drugged when an officer placed you under arrest
- You had a passenger in the vehicle, a child aged 14 or below
Note that your charges must start with the prosecutor demonstrating that you were driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. It means that the district attorney must prove you were under the effect of drugs or alcohol or that your BAC was at .08% or higher. The circumstances of your case must satisfy sections (a) and (b) of California Vehicle Code 23152. You could be guilty of either or both, leading to a DUI conviction.
Next, the district attorney will demonstrate the nature of your charge in court, whether first, second, third, fourth, or subsequent drunk driving conviction. It is determined by how many previous DUI sentences you have in your criminal history within 10 years. It will assist the judge in deciding on the suitable sentence enhancement after conviction under Vehicle Code 23572.
The district attorney will also consider the level of alcohol in your blood during the arrest. BAC is vital proof of drunk driving in California. The police conduct BAC testing after a DUI arrest. If the result shows that you had a higher BAC than the standard .08%, you will face DUI charges under California Vehicle Code 23152(b).
Once you are determined to operate while intoxicated, the district attorney will prove the presence of a juvenile under 14 in your vehicle during the commission of the offense. The presence of a child while committing a severe crime aggravates your underlying charge and will increase your penalties after a conviction. It will appear as if you planned to harm the minor.
Penalties of Conviction Under California Vehicle Code 23572
Penalties for anyone convicted of drunk driving with a passenger below 14 in California depend on the underlying DUI charge. Understanding the punishment you will likely receive if the DUI arrest is your first or subsequent in ten years is vital.
First offenders for drunk driving are treated more leniently than offenders with previous DUI convictions. If you have a first DUI charge and you had a minor in the vehicle at the time of your arrest, here are the penalties you will likely receive, together with an enhanced penalty:
- Misdemeanor or summary probation for five years
- A maximum jail time of six months
- $390 to $1,000 in court fines
- A requirement to install an IID device for at least six months
- Possible suspension of your driver’s license for at least four months
- Completion of a DUI treatment for 3- to 9 months
In addition to that, the judge will add 48 hours to your jail time for having a minor aged below 14 in the vehicle while operating under the influence.
Second DUI Offenders
A DUI offense becomes a second if it happens within 10 years from a first. Second DUI offenders are likely to receive these penalties after conviction:
- Misdemeanor or summary probation for five years
- One year behind bars
- Court fines of $390 to $1,000
- The requirement to install an IID in your car for at least one year
- Possible suspension of your driver’s license for at least two years
- Completion of DUI program for 30 months
Additionally, the judge will increase your jail time by ten days if you are guilty of operating a vehicle under the influence with a passenger under 14.
Third DUI Offenders
A DUI offense becomes your third if you have two prior DUI convictions within 10 years. Third DUIs are still misdemeanors and are punished by:
- Misdemeanor or summary probation for five years
- Up to a year in jail
- Court fines of up to $1,000
- The requirement to install an IID in your vehicle for at least two years
- Possible suspension of your driver’s license for three years
- Completion of a DUI program for 30 months
The judge will increase your jail time by 30 days if you are guilty under Vehicle Code 23572.
Fourth and Subsequent DUI Offenders
The fourth and subsequent DUI occurs if you already have three prior DUI convictions within 10 years. The district attorney will charge it as a felony offense, attracting the following punishment after conviction:
- A maximum prison time of three years
- Up to $1,000 in court fines
- Possible suspension of your driver’s license for five years
- Completion of DUI school for 18 to 30 months
A felony DUI conviction requires an additional ninety days of jail time if you are guilty of drunk operating a car with a passenger under 14.
Penalty enhancements in California are mandatory. You will serve time in jail if you are determined guilty under Vehicle Code 23572, even if the judge places you on probation for the underlying offense. The judge will increase your jail time further if your case has more aggravating factors like:
- Having an excessively high BAC of more than 0.15%
- Failing to take a BAC test after arrest
- Speeding or reckless driving
Additional Charges for Child Endangerment
Committing a severe offense in the presence of a minor is considered endangering the minor. Child endangerment is a separate charge you can face if you are guilty of drunk driving with a passenger under 14. The law against endangering a minor is under Penal Code 273a. You could face charges under this statute if you willingly expose a minor below 18 to unjustifiable pain, suffering, or danger. The charges will still hold even though the minor did not suffer actual physical harm.
The presence of a juvenile in your car when you are drunk driving puts them in great danger of sustaining severe injuries if you are involved in an accident. You can face charges for DUI and child endangerment if you are determined guilty under Vehicle Code 23572. If the circumstances of your case satisfy elements of both offenses, you will receive separate penalties that you must serve simultaneously.
California Penal Code 273a is a wobbler. The district attorney can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the danger you exposed the minor to. If you receive a misdemeanor conviction, you will likely face one year of jail time to your enhanced penalty for the presence of a child in the vehicle while you were driving under the influence. If you receive a felony conviction for endangering the child, you will likely receive an additional six years in prison to the enhanced penalty. Remember that you must serve penalties for both offenses consecutively.
Here are the standard penalties for California child endangerment if the child does not suffer any physical or emotional harm:
- At least six months of jail time
- Court fines of not exceeding $1,000
- A minimum of four years on misdemeanor probation
- A court order stopping any contact with the victim of this offense
You will also be subject to random DUI tests during the probation period.
You will be expected to serve this sentence consecutively with the penalty under Vehicle Code 23572.
It is crucial to engage a skilled criminal lawyer from the start of the process to avoid facing heftier penalties than you deserve. An experienced criminal lawyer will know the right strategies to apply in your case to compel the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges. Your attorney will study your case, looking for weak points that they can challenge to obtain a favorable outcome.
Legal Strategies to Fight Charges Under California Vehicle Code 23572
A conviction for drunk driving with a passenger below 14 will result in life-altering consequences. Other than spending time behind bars and paying a hefty court fine, you are left with a damaging criminal record that could make it a challenge to obtain suitable employment. Thus, it is reasonable to fight your charges and avoid a conviction. Fortunately, several legal defense strategies are there for your lawyer to use to have the court drop or reduce your charges. The most common of these are:
You Were Not Operating Under the Influence
Remember that you have to be guilty of DUI to receive a sentence enhancement under Vehicle Code 23572. If you successfully fight your DUI charges, the judge will dismiss all your charges and allow you to walk free. An experienced criminal attorney will know the right strategies to fight your DUI charges. Your attorney's strategies can weaken the prosecutor’s case against you and cause the jury to dismiss DUI charges against you.
For instance, your attorney can prove that the police were mistaken when they arrested you for DUI. It could be that you exhibited signs of drunkenness at the time, which does not necessarily mean you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If the probable cause for your arrest was poor driving, it could have been due to an uneven road and not drunk driving.
During the preliminary DUI investigation, signs of drunkenness do not necessarily mean that you are drunk or drugged. It could be that you are allergic to dust or were simply tired. Hence, the bloodshot eyes are usually taken as a sign of intoxication. Having slurred speech does not mean that the person is drugged. It could be that you were simply tired and were impatient to go home.
Additionally, your lawyer can challenge the BAC test result that indicated a higher than standard blood-alcohol concentration. Field sobriety tests are usually not accurate. They can provide inaccurate results if someone has used an alcohol-based substance before testing. For instance, an alcohol-based mouthwash can trigger a high BAC that could result in a DUI arrest. That does not necessarily mean you were drunk. The inaccuracy could also be because the breathalyzer was not adequately calibrated as required by the law.
Your attorney can also cite illegal arrest to have the court drop your DUI charges. It could be because the police failed to follow the arresting guidelines provided by the law. For instance, if they stopped and arrested you without probable cause, or the officer did not read and explain your Miranda rights. The laws require the police to have a reasonable cause for arresting a motorist for DUI. For instance, if a motorist were speeding, driving recklessly, or violating a traffic law, that would be a valid reason to stop and arrest a DUI. If the police started questioning you and writing a report without reading your Miranda rights, your attorney could fight to have any evidence they gathered against you inadmissible in trial.
If the court determines you are not guilty of DUI, you will not face additional charges.
The Passenger Was Older than 14
If your attorney cannot challenge your DUI charges, they could fight the second charge to avoid the sentence enhancement under Vehicle Code 23572. The judge will only enhance your sentence if you had a passenger in the car when the police placed you under arrest and he/she was a child below 14 years. If there was no passenger at the time, or the passenger was older than 14, the court will not enhance your penalties. You will also not face additional charges for endangering a child.
It could be that the minor entered the car after the police stopped you for drunk/drugged driving. Or the child was in another vehicle that the police stopped at the same time as yours. Mixups in cases like these are inevitable. If the police were mistaken at the time, the judge will dismiss the sentence enhancement requirement and only prosecute you for drunk/drugged driving.
It could also be that there was a passenger in your vehicle at the time, but they were not a minor. If the passenger was a minor but older than 14, you could still face child endangerment charges even though you will not be subject to sentence enhancement under Vehicle Code 23572.
Your DUI charges will still hold, and you will face the respective penalties provided under the law after conviction.
Find an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Do you or your loved one face charges for driving while drunk/drugged with a minor aged below 14 in Riverside, CA?
You must be very worried about the outcome of your situation. DUI charges in California are stiff, and you are subject to sentence enhancement if you were driving with a minor below 14 at the time. But, you can fight your charges to obtain a fair outcome during the trial. That becomes possible with the help of an experienced criminal lawyer. We have handled several cases like these at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. Thus, we have strategies that could help your situation. Contact us at 951-946-6366 for more information and quality legal assistance.