California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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If you are charged with California DUI, and you had a child in your car at the time you were arrested, there are two charges the prosecutor might consider.
VC 23572 DUI with a minor under 14 in the car
The first is actually a sentence enhancement, not a separate charge. People who commit DUI with a child under the age of fourteen (14) in the car may receive California’s Vehicle Code 23572 VC DUI with a child in the car sentence enhancement.
Sometimes people call this “DUI with child endangerment,” which can be confusing, since “child endangerment” (discussed below) is a separate crime. VC 23572 is what is charged in most cases where defendants are arrested for DUI with a minor in the car.
Vehicle Code 23572 calls for additional mandatory jail time on top of normal DUI penalties. If this is your first DUI, the “DUI with child passenger” enhancement will require you to spend an additional forty-eight (48) hours in county jail.
This rises to ten (10) days in jail if this is your second DUI in a 10-year period, thirty (30) days if it is your third–and a full ninety (90) days in jail (again, in addition to any jail time required for the underlying DUI) if it is your fourth or higher DUI.
PC 273a child endangerment
The second charge a California prosecutor might consider is the actual crime of child endangerment under Penal Code 273a PC.
PC 273a child endangerment does not need to have anything to do with DUI. It can be charged against anyone who willfully causes or permits a child to be placed in a dangerous situation. It also does not need to involve children under 14; any minor under 18 can be involved.
But prosecutors do sometimes charge DUI defendants with child endangerment. This usually happens when the circumstances of the DUI were relatively egregious–such as when the driver had a very high BAC or was driving erratically, or the child was not wearing a seatbelt or in an approved child seat.
The good news is that a defendant cannot receive both the Vehicle Code 23572 DUI-with-child-endangerment sentence enhancement and a conviction for PC 273a child endangerment. But you can be convicted of both ordinary DUI and PC 273a child endangerment for the same incident.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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