DUI and Child Endangerment
Convictions for driving under the influence already carry heavy penalties in California, with offenders facing serious professional, personal, and financial consequences. The consequences of a conviction become even more severe where the driver accused of a DUI had a child under 18 in the car, if that child is injured, or if it was the driver’s own child.
A recent incident in Los Angeles County serves as an example of the sorts of charges that may be imposed where a driver injures a child while showing signs of intoxication. In the incident, a Glendale woman was backing out of a grocery store parking spot when she ran over her child’s leg. The woman’s two children had been holding onto the car door’s handles, but her seven-year-old fell when the car pulled out. The child’s leg was bruised, but he was not seriously injured, and the other child was not hurt. When police arrived, they detected evidence of intoxication on the mother’s behalf. The officers subjected her to field sobriety tests, which the police determined she did not complete successfully. The mother was arrested and charged with felony DUI and two counts of child endangerment. She was held on $200,000 bail, and her children were placed into family members’ custody.
Under the laws of California, a DUI can be charged as a felony with a possible sentence of up to four years in prison whenever another person is injured as a result of the intoxicated driving. When a child is the injured party, the consequences become even more serious. When a child under the age of 14 is in the car when the drunken driving is alleged to have occurred, prosecutors can add an enhancement to the DUI sentence, which includes a 48-hour mandatory jail sentence.
Additionally, prosecutors have the option to impose charges of child endangerment any time a child under the age of 18 is in the car with a driver who is under the influence. Child endangerment charges can bring a one-year jail term, but where the child was injured or suffered a risk of injury, the crime will be charged as a felony, with a potential prison sentence of up to six years. When this child is the driver’s, the more serious penalty is the potential loss of custody. Children will be removed from the parent’s custody after an arrest for DUI when the child is in the car, and the case will be referred to Child Protective Services (CPS). Parents can face an uphill battle in a fight to regain custody of their child after a conviction for DUI while their child was in the car, and such a conviction can also play an important role in custody determinations where parents are separated. Ensuring you have a capable and aggressive criminal defense attorney is of the utmost importance when facing these types of charges.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Southern California, consult with a knowledgeable, effective, and trial-ready defense attorney to make sure your rights are protected, and contact Ventura DUI lawyer Paul Tyler for a consultation, at 805-889-9000.