As discussed in another article “DUI with aggravating factors”, there are a number of factors, which if present at the time your arrest, can result in enhanced penalties if you are convicted. Pursuant to California law, specifically California Vehicle Code §34572, if there is a passenger in your vehicle who is under the age of 14 at the time of your DUI, you may be charged with “child endangerment” as well. The Court will look to two questions to determine the appropriate sentence for you if you are charged with a DUI involving a passenger under the age of 14:
- The first question the Court will ask, and answer, before rendering a sentence based on a child endangerment by virtue of a DUI with a person under 14 years of age in the car, is whether you had actual, physical, control of the car while you were under the influence.
- The second necessary element to be shown is that in addition to having actual, physical, control over the vehicle while under the influence, there was also a person under the age of 14 present in your car.
Pursuant to California Penal Code §273(a) it is a punishable offense for any person to willfully put a child under the age of 14, in a position that poses an immediate risk to their welfare and/or their health. One situation that courts deem to satisfy the §273(a) prohibition is driving under the influence with a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle with you. This charge is known as a “wobbler” offense in California, and can be charged as either a misdemeanor, or a felony. This determination will be made based on the severity of the harm to the child.
Whenever you are faced with a DUI, especially a DUI with the child endangerment enhancement, it is crucial that you contact an attorney immediately. The competent staff at Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm, have years of experience representing their clients in all manners of DUI cases, including DUIs with a child endangerment enhancement.
- If you beat the DUI case against you, the child endangerment charge must be dropped as well.
- If your counsel convinces the Prosecutor to offer you a plea deal of a “wet reckless”, the Court is no longer able to pursue a child endangerment punishment.
In general, a “plea deal” is an agreement between you and the Prosecutor that you will plead guilty to a lesser charge, and no trial will occur. When a plea deal is offered, you will be informed of the punishment you will receive for pleading guilty to that charge. If you decline a plea deal, you are taking a gamble. Your attorneys may beat the DUI charge, and the case will be dismissed. Alternatively, you could lose and the judge will impose whatever sentence they deem proper. It is important to have skilled counsel who are able to realistically assess your chances of winning the case against you, and are able to explain the risks and benefits of a plea deal.
In the event that you are found guilty of a DUI, and had a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time, in violation of California Penal Code §273(a), you may be forced to comply with the penalties associated with the DUI, as well as the penalties for the child endangerment enhancement. The severity of the penalties that are assessed against you are determined by your previous criminal DUI history.
- In the event that this is your first conviction, the court may impose an addition 2 days to your sentence.
In the event that this is your second conviction, the court may impose an addition 10 days to your sentence. In the event that this is your third conviction, the court may impose an addition 30 days to your sentence. In the event that this is your fourth conviction, the court may impose an addition 90 days to your sentence. For purposes of the list above, the Court will only look to the last 10 years to determine how many convictions you have had. Unless your DUI resulted in serious bodily injury, your DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor. If the DUI results in serious bodily injury, you will be charged with a felony DUI.
It should be noted that the Child Endangerment Law, which is found in California Penal Code §273(a), allows for the Prosecutor to pursue a child endangerment charge regardless of what form the DUI charge is brought against you (misdemeanor or felony).
Thus, if you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, and a child of 14 years old or younger is present, the Prosecution can charge you with a DUI involving sentence enhancements, child endangerment, or both.
If you are convicted of child endangerment, there are stiff penalties associated with that. The penalty associated with a conviction ranges from incarceration in state prison between 1 and 6 years; the range is determined by the form of the charge against you misdemeanor/felony).
There are some cases where if you were charged with a felony, the Court will apply a “strike” to your record. This could have dire consequences on your life if you are ever convicted of another felony. On your second strike offense, you Court can impose a sentence of up to twice the original maximum. If you are convicted of a third strike, the Court may impose a penalty of 25 years to life in prison.
Los Angeles County takes charges of driving under the influence with the child endangerment enhancement very seriously; and prosecutes those cases vigorously. It is essential to have skilled representation against these charges, as the consequences could be very severe.
The law makes it a punishable offense to willfully endanger a child.
It is essential to note that California Penal Code §273(a) makes it clear that to violate this law, the child does not need to suffer any injuries. The crime is putting the child in the position to be harmed, regardless of the outcome. If you have been charged with child endangerment, your attorney will have to bring all of their skills to the Courtroom, you want the very best representing you. The attorneys at Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm are the very best at what we do.
Examples of actions that may expose you to charges of child endangerment in violation of §273(a)
Not taking a child, who is ill, to get medical attention from trained professionals.
Having weapons such as knives or guns in an easily accessible place
Hiring a nanny who is known in the community as someone who hurts children.
Our team at Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm has years if experience representing defendants in cases where they are accused of child endangerment. The staff at Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm have years of experience investigating cases like this, and building the strongest defenses available. Potential defenses include that you wrongly accused, your conduct was within the realm of discipline permitted by the law, the conduct that formed the basis of the charge was unintentional, and you were not the person who caused the child to be at risk. These are just a few of many possible defenses your attorney can raise to convince the jury to acquit you. We understand that if you are charged with something like this, it is a very sensitive subject. We will be sensitive, and respectful, to your family’s privacy. If you have been charged with child endangerment, contact Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm for a FREE consultation.
To be convicted of child endangerment under California Penal Code §273(a), the Prosecutor must prove 1 of 4 fact patterns beyond a reasonable doubt:
A child under your custody was injured, and you permitted or caused that to happen.
A child under your custody was put in a position where they could be injured, and you permitted or caused that to happen
A child under your custody suffered unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain, and you willfully caused that to happen
A child under your custody was placed in a position to suffer unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain, and you willfully caused that to happen.
When the lay states that the crime requires that the defendant did something “willingly” or “willfully” the law means the conduct they are prosecuting you for was intentional. This is true regardless of whether or not you intended the outcome. This leaves the door open for your attorney to argue that your conduct, which forms the basis of the charges against you, was done unintentionally. Below is an example of how an attorney would argue that you did not act willfully.
Tom is at a birthday party for his son Terry’s friend Terry is 10 years old. While at the party, Tom and a bunch of the other fathers are chatting with each other. Tom is drinking what he thinks is punch, but unbeknownst to him it had been spiked. After the party was over, Tom and Terry got in the car and left, while he was driving Tom began to feel a little weird, but didn’t even consider the possibility that he might be altered. Tom is arrested on suspicion of DUI, and charged with Child Endangerment to boot. Tom’s attorney argues the defense of “involuntary intoxication” (a valid defense to a DUI). Tom’s attorney further argues that since the act of driving under the influence is what satisfies the requirement that the person caused the risk, the conduct was not willful and the Court cannot maintain a child endangerment charge.
As mentioned above, “involuntary intoxication” is a rare defense, but it does serve to illustrate that the conduct which placed the child at risk must be done willfully, or intentionally.
If you have been charged with a DUI or a DUI with Child Endangerment charges, contact Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm for a FREE consultation so that we can begin to discretely investigate the case against you. Our attorneys are trained to deal with DUI and DUI related charges in Los Angeles specifically, and we will advocate for you to the best of our abilities.