Laws surrounding driving under the influence (DUI) cases are severe because several catastrophic road accidents occur every year due to intoxication. A stop at a DUI checkpoint can become a serious legal issue if you are DUI with a passenger under 14 years of age.
The law considers this kind of DUI case as child endangerment, and a conviction will attract other penalties on top of the underlying DUI offense sentence. Apart from losing your valuable driving license, you could also be subject to hefty fines and a jail term if the DUI allegations against you are evidentiary true.
Reliable DUI attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer understand how this type of charge can impact your life. We will aggressively and tirelessly fight to protect your rights through every stage of the prosecution process to reduce or dismiss the alleged DUI charge.
Understanding DUI With a Minor/Passenger Under the Age of 14
Regardless of the circumstances, DUI is unlawful even if there are no aggravating factors like having a minor under 14 in the vehicle. Generally, law enforcement officers treat DUI cases severely because controlling an automobile under the influence of alcohol or other unlawful drugs shows disregard for human life.
DUI with a minor below the age of 14 years in the vehicle is a separate crime that arises if you are under arrest for drunk driving. That means if you were not drunk driving at the time of the arrest at a DUI checkpoint, the prosecutor would have no charges against you for DUI with a minor under 14 or child endangerment.
Depending on the specific facts of your DUI case, the prosecutor can file any of the following types of DUI charges against you:
- DUI against Vehicle Code (VC) 23152(a)
- DUI with a Blood to Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher against Vehicle Code (VC) 23152(b)
Vehicle Code (VC) 23572 defines laws for sentencing enhancement when a defendant is guilty of any of the above DUI charges, and he/she had a minor under fourteen years of age in the vehicle.
The ultimate goal of this statute is to protect the youth by ensuring defendants guilty of drunk driving with a passenger under the age of fourteen years are subject to harsher penalties to deter other drivers with that kind of reckless behavior.
Therefore, if you face a possibility of conviction for an aggravated DUI, you must contact a knowledgeable and well-informed DUI attorney for top-notch legal representation to reduce or dismiss DUI charges against you.
How Prosecutors Treat DUI Cases Involving a Child Under the Age of 14
Since DUI with a passenger under fourteen years in the car is a wobbler offense, the prosecutors can file your DUI case as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
Regardless of your driving pattern, level of intoxication, or whether you had intentions of hurting the child or not, the prosecutor can still file charges against you for violating VC 23572 under the following conditions:
- You were drunk driving at the time of the arrest.
- You had a child below the age of fourteen years in the vehicle
What to Expect After an Arrest for DUI With a Minor Under 14 in the Vehicle
Events after an arrest for DUI with a minor under the age of fourteen years in the car will not change because there are aggravating issues surrounding your DUI case. As mentioned above, if you manage to fight your DUI charge, you will have no case against you for violating VC 23572. The usual events after a DUI arrest include:
Attending Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) Hearing
Once you are under arrest for DUI, you will be subject to two separate legal hearings/proceedings, which includes:
- Administrative DMV hearing
- DUI criminal charge hearing in a court
Typically, the officers at the DUI checkpoint will confiscate your driving license immediately after an arrest and give you a temporary pink license which is valid for only thirty days following your arrest date. More importantly, when the arresting police officer gives you this license, you must schedule a DMV hearing within ten days following your arrest date.
The purpose of scheduling this DMV hearing is to convince DMV officials that there is a need to keep your driving license. If you use your vehicle to drop and pick your children from school or daycare every day, it means you need the license by all means.
Winning a DMV hearing is as vital as winning a DUI trial because your defense attorney can use some of this evidence to counter your DUI charges during various DUI criminal court processes. An experienced and reliable DUI attorney can represent you during this administrative hearing to fight for your best interests for a desirable outcome.
Note, when you fail to request a DMV license suspension hearing within ten days following your DUI arrest date, the DMV will suspend your driving license automatically after thirty days, and you will have no right to do so again.
The first stage of your DUI criminal court process is known as an arraignment. At the arraignment hearing, which your defense attorney can attend on your behalf, the judge will inform you of the alleged DUI charges against you.
If you are to attend the arraignment hearing, the judge will give you an option to enter a plea to the alleged DUI charges. However, he/she must ensure you are aware of your constitutional rights before you decide to take the plea offer.
The decision to enter a plea is an issue you would want to discuss with your defense attorney. If a plea bargain would work in your favor to reduce the charge or sentence, your attorney will advise you to plead “no contest” or “guilty” to the alleged DUI charges. In exchange, you might have to serve the agreed-upon punishment like attending a DUI diversion program.
Possible sentences you could be subject to after pleading guilty to the alleged DUI charge are lenient and less severe than the consequences you could be subject to after conviction in a trial. If there are high chances of fighting the case through a jury trial, your defense attorney will advise you to plead “not guilty” to the alleged DUI charges.
If that is the case, your attorney will request a bail hearing, which can occur immediately after the arraignment. You have to post bail if you want to be out of the detention hall before the judge’s ultimate verdict on the case.
Since you are not guilty of the alleged DUI charge until the court proves you so, you should consider finding a way to post the required bail amount. There are several bail bond agents you can contact out there to help you post the necessary bail amount for your DUI case at the rate of 10% of the required total bail amount.
DUI Jury Trial
If your DUI attorney cannot achieve a satisfactory outcome during the arraignment and the pretrial motions, your DUI case will proceed to the next DUI court process, the jury trial. Unlike a judge, jurors are likely to be sympathetic to you if your attorney presents viable legal defense arguments to counter the DUI charges against you.
The prosecutor with the jurisdiction over your case carries an evidentiary burden to demonstrate to all jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the alleged DUI charge.
For a DUI charge under VC 23152(a), the prosecutor has to prove that you were drunk driving during the time of arrest and you had a minor below the age of fourteen years in the car. Remember, the prosecutor can secure a conviction against you for violating VC 23152(a) even if your BAC was below 0.08% at the time of the arrest as long as he/she can prove you were drunk driving.
Even if you violate both DUI laws under VC 23152(a) and VC 23152(b), the prosecutor will only file one DUI charge against you because the law cannot punish you for both offenses simultaneously.
Sometimes, the prosecutor can charge you with child endangerment if there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of a DUI offense. Penal Code 273(a) makes it illegal to put a child at risk of illness, injury, or death, and the prosecutor will charge this offense as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on your unique case circumstances.
You will rely on your defense attorney on every DUI criminal court process to fight for your rights because DUI laws can be complex. An experienced DUI attorney will have an idea of what to expect during every court hearing for the best legal defense strategies to fight for an alternative related less severe charge or dismissal of the case.
Potential Consequences of a DUI Conviction With a Passenger Under 14 in the Vehicle as An Aggravating Factor
During the DUI sentencing, the jury will consider other aggravating factors surrounding your case before deciding an appropriate sentence. DUI with a minor aged below 14 years in the car counts as an aggravating factor during DUI sentencing and will attract an extra sentence on top of the underlying offense sentence.
Below are potential consequences of a first-time DUI conviction without any aggravating factor:
- Three to five years of misdemeanor (summary) probation
- Attend a DUI school for three to nine months, depending on your BAC level during the time of the arrest
- Attend Victim Impact Panel
- Suspension of your driving license for six months
- Forty-eight hours to six months jail term
- Pay a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000
If the court orders summary probation instead of a jail term, you must comply with the conditions of the probation. For example, you should not commit any crime while on probation or drive with a measurable BAC.
Possible punishments you are likely to face for a DUI conviction increase with every subsequent conviction of the same offense. That means, if it is your second DUI conviction, you will be subject to harsher penalties like suspension of your driving license for two years and a longer jail term of ninety-six hours to one year.
A first-time conviction for DUI with a minor or child below the age of fourteen years in the vehicle will make you subject to the above punishments and an extra and consecutive two days (48 hours) in the county jail.
However, if it is your fourth-time DUI conviction within ten years, sentencing enhancement under VC 23572 will not apply because this offense is a wobbler. Instead, you will be subject to the usual possible felony punishment for DUI.
Fighting a DUI With a Child Under 14 Possible Sentence Enhancement Under VC 23572
To avoid the possible sentencing enhancement under VC 23572, you must first fight the underlying DUI charge against you. Below are common and viable legal defense tactics most attorneys will use to counter DUI charges against you during the jury trial:
Your BAC Results Were Due to Mouth Alcohol
If the prosecutor is seeking to secure a DUI conviction against you for violating VC 23152 (b), his/her evidence on your BAC level at the time of the arrest should be accurate. Your BAC results at the DUI checkpoint could be prone to errors due to mouth alcohol. Your attorney can argue that the cause of your high BAC results after blowing the breathalyzer was mouth alcohol, resulting from:
- Some medicines, for example, a cough syrup
Objective Signs of Intoxication Does Not Mean You Were DUI
Displaying objective signs of intoxication is one of the main reasons police officers at the DUI checkpoint arrest you for DUI. While your physical appearance helps determine if you were DUI or not, it is not enough to convince the judge that you were DUI. Sometimes the arresting officers may testify that you drunk driving because you had:
- Watery eyes
- Slurred speech
- Flushed face
However, a skilled defense attorney can argue that the above physical signs of intoxication were due to something else like allergies, cold, fatigue, or eye irritation.
Your Performance on the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) Was Inaccurate
If the prosecutor is using the FSTs results against you, it is possible to challenge this evidence because it is prone to several errors. Typically, the arresting officers will testify that your performance on the FSTs was poor, meaning you were drunk driving. However, your poor performance on the FSTs could be due to the following reasons:
- Natural physical condition
- Your clothing
- Uneven surface condition
- Bad weather
Suppose your defense attorney can convince the jury that your performance on the FSTs was due to the above reasons. In that case, this evidence will become inadmissible, and the prosecution team will not use it against you.
The Arresting Officers Didn’t Comply to The Right Legal Procedures
DUI checkpoints are lawful, but police officers have to follow the proper procedures and rules for stopping and arresting drivers alleged of DUI. Failure of the officers at the DUI checkpoint to follow the required guidelines for making a traffic stop, investigation, and arrest is a powerful and applicable legal defense strategy to fight a DUI case.
The officers at the DUI checkpoint must have probable cause for pointing out your vehicle to pull up for investigation, for example, making a U-turn or swerving on the road. Before a DUI interrogation, the officers must also inform you of your Miranda rights.
If the arresting officers didn’t observe any of these constitutional protections, your defense attorney could request a suppression hearing according to section 1538.5 of the Penal Code. This hearing aims to:
- Dismiss the evidence obtained improperly and illegally
- Convince the prosecutor to dismiss or reduce the alleged DUI charge against you to a less severe offense like “wet reckless” or “dry reckless.”
Fighting a DUI charge can be stressful and confusing, but you have an option to seek the services of an attorney for legal counsel and representation. Your attorney can help you expunge your DUI criminal conviction record because it does not disappear automatically, as most people believe.
Expunging a DUI criminal record gives you a fresh start because you don’t have to disclose to a potential employer that you have a DUI criminal history unless you intend to apply for a job in the military. You will also enjoy the satisfaction of starting all over again without a criminal conviction record which affects your reputation.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
DUI with a passenger under 14 can make you subject to hefty fines and a lengthy jail term if the court finds the allegations against you to be true. Your case could become more severe if you have a past conviction record or history of DUI.
We invite you to call Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer at 310-502-1314 to schedule an obligation-free consultation with our understanding and experienced DUI defense attorneys. Once you contact us, we will immediately access your case and determinedly fight for your rights to achieve the best desirable outcome.