Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was recently arrested for a California DUI with my twelve year old daughter in the car at the time of the arrest. I am wondering what will happen to me and whether the penalties will be enhanced since I had a minor in the car?”
California DUI overview
It is illegal in the State of California to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Whether you have a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08% or you have alcohol in your system and you are unable to safely operate your vehicle, you can be arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI).
You mentioned you also had your young daughter in your car at the time of your DUI arrest. Driving while intoxicated with a minor in your vehicle not only allows for the state to charge you with DUI, but they may also enhance the DUI charge (California Vehicle Code 23572) or charge you with a separate charge of child endangerment under California Penal Code Section 273(a).
Penalties for DUI with a minor in the vehicle
Assuming this is your first DUI charge in California, if the prosecutor decides to charge you with an enhanced DUI charge you may have extra jail time added to your sentence. For example, a first-time DUI offender may be required to serve up to 6 months in jail. If the charges are enhanced, the state can add another 48 hours to the jail sentence.
Note: the enhanced will only apply if the child in the car was under the age of 14.
When does the state charge you with child endangerment?
As mentioned above, if you are arrested with a minor in the vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could face an enhanced DUI charge or a separate child endangerment charge. If the state decides to charge you with child endangerment this is considered a separate criminal charge. In most cases, however, this charge is only applied in the most severe cases where the parent had a high BAC level or they were driving extremely recklessly.
If convicted of child endangerment you can face an additional 6 months in jail in addition to the standard DUI jail sentence, be required to pay an additional $1,000 in fines, and serve four years probation. It’s also important to note that this charge can be assessed for any age minor in the car up to 18 years of age and does not only include child under the age of 14.
Will I lose custody of my child if I am arrested for DUI with them in the car?
Another common question, although you did not ask this, is whether a DUI arrest will warrant an investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS) and a potential removal of your child from your custody.
Under California State statute, removal of the child is not required if you are convicted of DUI with them in the car, but it’s important to note that CPS may be notified and decide to perform their own investigation to ensure the safety and proper care of your child.
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