You will inevitably make a mistake once in your life. One blunder that cannot be overlooked in Los Angeles is DUI with a minor passenger. Most people do not realize the amount of damage a conviction can cause. The conviction will stay on your criminal record for many years, not forgetting carrying severe penalties. It will also be easy for law enforcers to pull you over for suspicion, even when you are not violating the law. That's why you should engage a competent DUI defense lawyer like Law Offices of Jeff Voll. We can help you realize the best results possible.

California Sentence Enhancement for DUI with a Minor in Your Car

DUI with a minor in a motor vehicle is straightforward. It means you are charged with drunk driving, and you had a child below fourteen years of age in your motor vehicle during your arrest.

DUI laws in California provide for increased penalties for people who operate their cars while intoxicated with a minor below fourteen years as a passenger. Per Vehicle Code Section 23572 VC, the sentence enhancement entails an additional compulsory jail sentence besides drunk driving penalties. That means if you are found guilty of the offense in question, you will undoubtedly serve time in county jail.

Factors like:

  • Your intoxication degree,
  • Your driving pattern, or
  • Whether you wanted to injure the minor does not matter.

Vehicle Code Section 23572 only pays attention to whether:

  • The defendant was operating the vehicle while drunk, and
  • There was a child below fourteen in the motor vehicle when the defendant drove

How Time Will You Serve for Violating California Vehicle Code Section 23572 VC?

If found guilty of drunk driving and a sentence enhancement for violating VC 23572 applies, you face standard driving under the influence penalties together with the additional and consecutive sentence below:

  • A first-time DUI conviction attracts a 48-hour jail sentence
  • Ten days in a county jail for a second-time drunk driving conviction
  • Thirty days for a third drunk driving offense
  • A ninety-day sentence for a fourth-time or subsequent DUI offense

As previously mentioned, this sentence is mandatory.

As far as DUI sentencing is concerned, the term previous "DUI convictions" means the convictions you have faced within ten years after being convicted of Vehicle Code Section 23572.

A fourth drunk driving offense within the look-back period is a wobbler. That means it can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the prosecutor's discretion. If charged as a California felony, VC 23572 won't apply.

How to Beat a Driving Under the Influence with a Child Endangerment Penalty Enhancement

Sentence enhancement for a child under fourteen in the vehicle applies only to charges where the defendant has been found guilty of:

  • Driving under the influence (VC 23152a), or
  • Driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher (VC 23152b).

In other words, if your proficient criminal defense attorney can fight the DUI charge, the judge can't impose the enhanced sentence for DUI with a minor as a passenger and Vehicle Code Section 23572 VC won't apply.

The attorney can use common DUI legal defenses like:

Objective Intoxication Symptoms are Different from DUI

One of the most effective methods to beat DUI charges is challenging the prosecutor's use of physical intoxication signs to claim you were drunk.

Physical appearance plays a significant role in driving under the influence investigations. The arresting police officer will testify you were drunk since you had:

  • Watery and red eyes
  • Flushed face
  • An alcohol odor on your breath
  • Unstable gait
  • Slurred speech

Any skilled counsel can defend you against drunk driving charges by claiming innocent reasons like cold, allergies, eye irritation, and fatigue could have caused the symptoms.

The Law Enforcers Did not Follow the Right Procedures

DUI investigations in California should be protected by procedures that are designed to protect defendants from police misconduct. The procedures include:

  • The arresting officer should have probable cause for DUI arrest, DUI investigation, and a traffic stop
  • Title 17 regulations and procedures
  • The officer should read you Miranda rights before interrogating you

If one of these protections is not observed, the DUI attorney should request a Penal Code Section 1538.5 PC hearing (suppression hearing). The hearing will:

  • Dismiss evidence that was not properly collected, and
  • Give the attorney a pre-trial chance to highlight gaps in the prosecutor's case as well as persuade the prosecutor to reduce or drop your DUI charge.

The Police Did Not Observe You for Fifteen Minutes

A police officer should observe a defendant for fifteen minutes before conducting a breath test.

In most cases, the police do not conduct the observation period. Rather they set up the testing instrument and do the paperwork.

Proving the police did not properly observe your calls, not only the chemical test results but also the whole investigation into question.

Field Sobriety Tests (FST) Inaccuracy

There is no single accurate indicator of drug or alcohol impairment. The most reliable tests which have actual data to support trustworthiness are appropriately sixty-five to seventy-seven percent accurate at perceiving impairment, and that is if they were properly administered and recorded.

Additionally, innocent explanations that could show physical symptoms of impairment can clarify FSTs poor performance. Also, factors like could make a sober driver fail their FST:

  • Poor lighting,
  • Bad weather
  • Uneven surface condition
  • Police-induced intimidation, or
  • Footwear like high heels, dress shoes, or boots

The thing is your defense lawyer should ensure the prosecution is unable to present your FST performance as evidence in your driving under the influence case.

DUI Checkpoint Did Not Adhere to The Law

Driving under the influence sobriety checkpoint should comply with stringent legal requirements. These requirements include:

  • A supervising officer ought to make decisions like where, when, and how the checkpoint will operate
  • The method of stopping drivers should be neutral
  • The checkpoint should be reasonably situated
  • The sobriety checkpoint duration and time must demonstrate good judgment
  • Safety precaution measures should be taken
  • The checkpoint should be advertised beforehand
  • Motorists ought not to be detained for long
  • Drivers should be able to tell that they are approaching a DUI stop

If any of these requirements are not met, your attorney should be able to challenge your arrest and DUI charges.

Plea Bargain

If your attorney is unable to get a case dismissal using the DUI defense, plea bargain negotiations to a reduced charge will avoid sentence enhancement for Vehicle Code Section 23572 VC.

A plea bargain is a negotiated substitute for having your case proceeding to trial. In this case, a plea bargain involves a charge reduction resulting from negotiations between the prosecutor and your DUI defense lawyer. It involves you pleading guilty to a lesser offense. The lesser crime carries less severe penalties like lower fines, little jail time, no DUI school, no compulsory suspension of your driver's license, and less stigma compared to a DUI conviction.

You are likely to be offered either of the following charge reduction in the plea bargain:

  • Wet reckless
  • Exhibition of speed
  • Dry reckless

Should the prosecution's case be weak, your attorney can be in a position to negotiate the charge reduction to:

  • Drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle
  • A traffic infraction like running a traffic stop signal
  • Drunk in public

If your charge is reduced to dry reckless or wet reckless, the VC 23572 charge will not apply.

Can You be Convicted of Both DUI with a Minor in the Motor Vehicle and Child Endangerment (California Penal Code Section 273a PC)?

Violation of Penal Code Section 273a PC (child endangerment) can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. According to this law, it is illegal to willfully put a minor in a condition where their health and well-being could be in danger. The law finds DUI with a minor in a car to be child endangerment.

Therefore, the prosecutor can choose to charge either:

  • The offense of child endangerment,
  • VC 23572 DUI penalty enhancement, or
  • Both child endangerment and DUI with a passenger under fourteen years of age.

However, a defendant can't be found guilty of both child endangerment and DUI with a passenger under fourteen years of age. The judge is banned from imposing an additional penalty increment per VC 23572 on a defendant who also violated PC 273a law. However, you can be sentenced for both child endangerment and normal driving under the influence.

The prosecutor could charge child endangerment irrespective of:

  • The child passenger's age
  • Whether the drunk driving offense is considered a felony or a misdemeanor.

A PC 273a charge is severe and isn't automatically charged alongside every drunk driving offense where a minor passenger is involved. Usually, a prosecutor will save the PC 273a charge for a severe case.

If charged with a misdemeanor PC 273a, you will spend a maximum of one year in jail. A felony, on the other hand, carries a maximum six-year sentence in state prison.

On the contrary, a Vehicle Code Section 23572 VC conviction only subjects a defendant to up to one hundred and eighty days in county jail. 

Get a Proficient Defense Lawyer Near Me

The state of California aggressively prosecutes DUI with a minor passenger charge. At maximum, this charge attracts a mandatory and additional ninety-day sentence on top of the standard DUI penalties. Consequently, if arrested, you should act fast to protect your freedom. At the Law Offices of Jeff Voll in Los Angeles, we understand what is at stake and can help develop the most effective defense. To learn more about your case, call us today at 323-467-6400.