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DUI and Child Endangerment Charges in California

DUI, or driving under the influence, is a serious offense that not only puts the intoxicated driver’s life at risk but also the lives of his or her passengers and everyone else on the road. Drunk driving with children in your car is an even more egregious offense. The importance of refraining from driving under the influence can’t be overstated – it puts everyone around the intoxicated driver at risk. If such a driver has a child in the car, that driver will face severe penalties, such as jail time or even felony charges under California state law.

What Are the Different Types of DUI Charges?

Many people may not realize that DUI charges are often assigned degrees, depending on the offender’s level of intoxication at the time of the accident and other circumstances surrounding the incident. In some cases, you may receive a DUI charge even if your blood-alcohol content is below the legal threshold. Conversely, driving at twice the legal limit can result in a charge of “extreme DUI” or “aggravated DUI.”

If you’re found to be driving under the influence with a child in the car, the justice system will more than likely slap you with an aggravated or even felony DUI charge – especially if the charge resulted from a fatal crash. If a child dies in such an incident, the drunk driver will more than likely face murder charges. Even if the driver didn’t intend for the child to die, the driver still chose to operate the vehicle under the influence, constituting an intentional act that endangered the child’s life.

Will I Go to Jail for DUI Child Endangerment?

In California, there are special provisions for DUI offenses with children under the age of 14 in the car. The state considers DUI with children in the car as “DUI with child endangerment,” and any type of such offense will result in mandatory jail time. A first offense will result in 48 hours of jail time, a second offense will get you ten days, and a third offense will lead to 30 days in jail. Subsequent charges only apply if the incidents are within ten years.

Unlike other DUI incidents, if you’re charged with DUI with a child under 14 in the car, the only factors in determining your guilt are whether or not you were driving your vehicle under the influence and whether or not there was a child under the age of 14 in the car with you at the time. If these two factors are proven true, you’ll face both the typical penalties for DUI along with the enhanced penalties that accompany having a minor in the car with you at the time.

DUI with Child vs. Child Endangerment

It’s important to note that your charges may vary. In some cases, you’ll simply receive the enhanced charge of DUI with a child in the car, and other circumstances may result in a separate child endangerment charge in addition to a standard DUI charge. While you may be charged with child endangerment and DUI with a child, California law prevents you from being convicted of both charges.

If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor child endangerment charge, you may spend up to a full year in county jail. Felony child endangerment will result in up to six years in California state prison. Conversely, a DUI charge with a child in the car has a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail. Regardless of the nature of your DUI charges, it’s imperative that you secure legal representation to protect your rights. Driving under the influence isn’t acceptable, but it’s important to have a DUI lawyer who can represent your case and obtain a just result for everyone involved.