The consequences of a DUI conviction are determined by the circumstances of your offense, whether you have a prior DUI conviction on your criminal record, and the presence of aggravating factors. Aggravating factors increase the culpability and severity of a crime. Drunk driving with a minor under 14 in your car aggravates the DUI offense and could increase your penalties and result in additional charges of endangering a minor. Thus, you need an aggressive criminal lawyer by your side if you face criminal charges for drunk driving with a child under 14 in Bakersfield. Our team at Koenig Law Office will walk you through the legal processes and fight to convince the jury to drop or reduce your charges.
Overview of DUI Laws in California
DUI laws prohibit drivers from operating a vehicle under the effects of drugs or alcohol. It is a serious offense, punishable by lengthy jail or prison time and hefty fines. You could also lose your driving license temporarily or permanently after a DUI conviction. Other consequences include a damaging criminal record that will affect your social and career life. Thus, a DUI conviction is life-changing. But you can fight your charges with the help of an aggressive criminal lawyer to avoid a conviction or face a sentence for a more lenient charge.
DUI is called a priorable crime in California. The judge determines your sentence based on the previous DUI convictions in your criminal history. First offenders receive less-severe penalties than second and consequent offenders. For instance, first DUI offenders face a maximum of six months in jail after a conviction, while second offenders face a maximum of one year in jail.
But, the prosecutor must prove all elements of your charges beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty of DUI. DUI laws are under Vehicle Code 23152. The first section of the law (VC 23152(a)) prohibits motorists from operating under the effects of drugs or alcohol. The second section of this law (VC 23252(b)) prohibits motorists from driving with a BAC of 0.08% or more. The prosecutor must find you guilty of one or both of these statutes for the court to sentence you.
Depending on your criminal history and underlying circumstances, DUI in California is prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony. Generally, the first, second, and third DUI crimes are misdemeanors. The fourth and subsequent DUI crimes are charged as felonies, alongside DUIs with aggravating factors like an injury or death. Judges give their verdict based on the circumstances of your case. Thus, you can receive more or fewer penalties than provided by the law for your offense. For example, your penalties will increase if you face a first-charge DUI and are guilty of having a minor under fourteen in your car when the police arrest you.
Generally, DUI is a serious offense. Thus, you need legal help from the start to ensure that you undergo a fair trial and obtain a fair outcome. A competent criminal lawyer will study the details of your situation, offer advice, guidance, and support, and fight alongside you for the best possible outcome for your case.
Legal Implication of DUI With a Child Below 14
Children are innocent in all circumstances. They are incapable of defending themselves or making rational decisions without the intervention of adults. In most situations, children are under the care and protection of their parents or guardians. Without their parents or guardians, adults close to children are expected to help, guide, and protect children if a need arises.
However, so many children suffer at the hands of adults, primarily those responsible for caring for those children. Lawmakers know this and have designed various laws to protect children's rights. Adults guilty of endangering children or ignoring their needs can face severe penalties, as the constitution provides.
DUI with a child under 14 is one of the laws designed to protect children against unforeseeable danger. It is under VC 23572. Alcohol and drugs impair a person's ability to operate a vehicle safely. They are linked to the increasing number of road accidents in California today. Having a minor as a passenger when driving under the effects of drugs and alcohol endangers the life and wellbeing of that child. If you cause an accident, the innocent child will be in harm's way.
Thus, California laws provide a harsh penalty for anyone guilty under VC 23572. You will need an aggressive criminal lawyer to fight your charges in court to avoid the consequences of this serious charge.
The presence of a child in your vehicle is an aggravating factor. It will increase the severity of your DUI charge. Thus, you are subject to a sentence enhancement, which will enhance your jail or prison time, depending on the circumstances of your DUI charge. Additionally, you could face separate charges for child endangerment, resulting in additional penalties. If you are guilty under both statutes, the court will penalize you for both charges that you must serve consecutively.
Consequences of a Conviction Under Vehicle Code 23572
Vehicle Code 23572 offers additional punishment for anyone facing misdemeanor DUI if they are guilty of having a minor under 14 in the car when the offense occurred. The penalty enhancement will still apply under the following circumstances:
- You did not intend to injure the minor
- Regardless of your level of intoxication or BAC
- Regardless of your driving pattern
Enhancement penalties under this statute increase your jail time for the underlying DUI offense. It is imposed in the following manner:
- First offenders receive an additional 48 hours in jail on top of their six months for the underlying offense.
- Second offenders receive an additional ten days to their one-year jail time
- Third offenders receive an additional thirty days to their one-year jail time
- Fourth offenders receive a further 90 days in jail to their three years of prison time
Remember that the imposed sentence enhancement will be added to the sentence you receive for the underlying DUI charge. For instance, first DUI offenders receive an additional 48 hours for the following penalties, as provided under California VC 23152:
- Three years of misdemeanor probation
- Three months of DUI school
- Court fines of up to $2,000
- Suspension of your driving license for six months (you can apply for a restricted license right away to avoid losing your driving privileges)
- IID installation or six months, except for those not intending to drive
- Six months in jail
How To Defend Yourself Against VC 23572 Charges
All criminal offenses involving minors are severely punished in California. The prosecutor will present all evidence against you in court to compel the judge to give a guilty verdict. But, you can fight your charges with the help of an aggressive criminal lawyer. Fortunately for you, your lawyer has several defense strategies that they can use in your case to cause the jury to reduce or drop your charges. Common defense strategies for this offense are:
Fighting Your DUI Charge
The underlying charge for this offense is DUI. If you successfully fight the underlying charge, the court will acquit you of all the charges. You cannot be guilty under VC 23572 if you are not culpable of DUI. The prosecutor will first demonstrate in court that you were operating a car while intoxicated before bringing in the element of the minor. The good news is that your lawyer has several strategies to use to fight the DUI charge, including the following:
The Positive BAC Result was False
If the arresting officer tested you for BAC and it came out positive, you can use this strategy if the positive BAC result was false. A false positive BAC result could occur for several reasons, including being triggered by what you ate right before driving. Some foods or products we consume contain alcohol and could be why your breath test came out positive for alcohol. Examples include mouthwashes, bread, cinnamon rolls, fermented fruits, and foods made from alcoholic beverages.
Police Had No Probable Cause for Arrest
DUI laws in California require the police to have probable cause to arrest a motorist for DUI. If this is lacking in your case, the court will dismiss all evidence against you. The police must not make random stops and arrests. You must have behaved in a manner to suggest that you were operating while intoxicated for the officer to stop and investigate you for DUI. If the preliminary investigation shows no signs of intoxication, the officer must let you go and not make an arrest. Remember that driving poorly does not automatically mean that you are intoxicated.
Your BAC Results Were Inaccurate
You can also fight your BAC results if you are sure they are false. In most cases, the police use breathalyzers to test the level of alcohol in suspected motorists' blood. Breathalyzers are not always accurate and could give a false reading if they are not well calibrated or are faulty. Your lawyer will investigate further to obtain sufficient evidence that will enable them to prove in court that the breathalyzer the officer used on you produced false results.
Your Arrest Was Illegal
Your defense team will use this defense if the police fail to follow the arrest guidelines provided under the law. For instance, the arresting officer failed to read your Miranda rights after the arrest. In that case, the judge will dismiss all the evidence the officer gathered against you. That could leave the district attorney with insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.
No Minor Under 14
Your lawyer can also try to fight your second charge if you are unsuccessful in fighting your DUI charge. Remember that the second charge enhances your DUI penalty. The judge will not enhance your DUI sentence if you are not culpable of having a minor under fourteen in your car during your arrest.
But, you must prove in court that you were alone in the vehicle or that the passenger in your car at the time was not a child under 14. Sometimes the police can be mistaken, primarily if they handle many cases every day. It could be that the officer was mistaken, and the minor was not in your vehicle but in a different car that was closeby.
Remember that the burden of proof in these cases lies with the prosecutor. The court will dismiss your charge if the prosecutor cannot prove all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Child Endangerment Charges
Remember that you could face child endangerment charges for driving with a child under 14 in your vehicle while intoxicated. The additional charges are imposed depending on the circumstances of your case. If you also face charges for child endangerment in addition to charges under VC 23572, it helps to understand what they imply and how you can fight to avoid an additional conviction.
California's law against child endangerment is under PC 273(a). It is used to prosecute individuals that expose minors under 18 to unjustifiable suffering, pain, or danger. You could also face charges under this statute for subjecting a minor to an unreasonable risk of injury or death, even if the minor does not incur any actual harm.
The district attorney must prove the following elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty of endangering a minor:
- You willfully caused or permitted a child under your custody to suffer an injury
- You willfully caused or permitted a minor under your care to be in a situation where they could suffer harm, or
- You caused unreasonable physical or mental harm to a minor under your custody
DUI with a minor below 14 will satisfy the second element since you placed a child under your custody in a situation where they could suffer harm (injury or death). Remember that the minor does not need to suffer actual harm for you to be guilty of endangering a child.
It helps to work with a legal team that understands these cases' seriousness. An experienced criminal lawyer will fight to ensure that the court drops your child's endangerment charges.
Note that child endangerment charges require you to act willfully or willingly. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you purposely put the child in harm's way for the court to convict you of your charges. The court will drop your charges if the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence that you acted willfully or intentionally.
But, if you are guilty of child endangerment, you will face charges under Penal Code 273(a) for child endangerment and Vehicle Code 23572 for having a minor in the vehicle while drunk or drugged driving. That would result in two penalties, which you must serve consecutively.
But in most situations, district attorneys charge these cases under Vehicle Code 23572 and only include child endangerment charges if the DUI violation involving a minor was severe. For instance, if you had a minor in the vehicle while driving with a higher-than-standard BAC, or you have previous convictions for the same violation in your criminal record.
Penalties for a child endangerment charge will depend on the circumstances of your case. The offense is a wobbler, meaning that the district attorney can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor based on the degree of risk to which you subjected the minor. When charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by a year in jail, and when charged as a felony, it is punishable by six years in prison. Remember that you must serve the sentence you receive for child endangerment consecutively with the penalties for DUI with a child below 14.
How To Fight Child Endangerment Charges
If you face charges under PC 273(a), your defense team can put a solid defense to convince the judge to dismiss your charge. Fortunately, they have several defense strategies to use to obtain a fair outcome, including:
You Did Not Act Willfully
Child endangerment charges require you to have acted willfully or deliberately in putting the minor in harm's way. The court would dismiss your charges if your actions were not deliberate.
Mistake of Fact
Your defense team can use this strategy if the prosecutor's facts are inaccurate. For instance, when your arrest occurred, the person in the vehicle with you could have been an adult, only that they looked younger than they were. In that case, you will provide evidence to support your arguments for the judge to dismiss your charges.
Find a Reliable Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Are you or someone you know facing criminal charges for DUI with a child under 14 in Bakersfield?
An aggressive criminal lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal system and advice and support you until you obtain a fair outcome for your case. We also fight alongside you at Koenig Law Office to ensure you undergo a fair trial. Our skilled and experienced criminal lawyers will be with you from the start to the end of the legal process. We do not rest until you are satisfied with your case's outcome. Contact us at 661-793-7222 and allow us to study the details of your case for a more informed defense strategy.