After facing an arrest for driving under the influence with a minor under fourteen in the car, you will be subject to sentence enhancements. Usually, the offense is an aggravating factor because you will have put the child in reasonable danger. Therefore, most defendants will receive more penalties on top of the regular DUI offense punishment. Since a DUI with a passenger under fourteen years is an aggravated offense, you want to learn of all possible outcomes to the case as soon as you face arrest. With the information, you can create an elaborate plan on the types of defenses to present and the lines of argument you choose.

However, tackling a criminal case without the help of a criminal attorney may be stressful and overwhelming. Hence, it would be best to partner with a trust law firm to access reliable legal services to support your criminal matter. The best criminal defense attorneys will take on the case research process, meet with witnesses for adequate pre-trial preparations, and educate you on emerging issues in your case. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, you will receive effective legal services to guide you through the DUI matter. Moreover, our team is happy to provide any extra support you need to promote a positive litigation experience.

Understanding the Offense of DUI with a Passenger Under 14 Years

Like other crimes, driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle is unlawful, following provisions in section 23572 of the California Vehicle Code. Under the condition, any driver found guilty of the offense will face sentence enhancements on top of the punishments issued for a regular DUI.

You, therefore, need to remember that the offense attracts several consequences from its aggravated nature. For example, previous criminal charges play a significant role in determining your final penalties because the crime is priorable. Any priorable offense can attract additional punishments based on past convictions, primarily if you are a repeat offender.

However, the prosecutor must prove that your case facts satisfied the crime elements specific to the offense before conviction. The criminal case places the prosecutor’s proof burden, as he/she acts on behalf of the state to prosecute suspected offenders.

Subsequently, a criminal case only proceeds to sentence after the prosecutor successfully shows your guilty involvement in unlawful activities beyond a reasonable doubt.

Thus, if any of the elements in question still leave room for doubtful observations by the judge or your criminal defense lawyer, you will not face a conviction. The features of crime for the prosecutor to prove are:

You Were Driving Under the Influence

Driving while intoxicated is the underlying element that the prosecutor should prove, as it creates for the entire basis for conviction. As a result, the prosecutor will gather various evidence from the investigations officers to present persuasive evidence for your conviction.

Under the California Vehicle Code, drivers are prohibited from driving under the influence with a specific blood alcohol concentration. Under section 23152(a), a traffic officer may stop you for a suspected DUI and impose several tests and interrogations to check your level of sobriety.

Additionally, section 23152(b) specifies that a driver can only drive if his/her blood alcohol level is at 0.08% or below. A breach of the stipulated restrictions will lead to immediate arrest because the violation counts as a criminal offense.

For the traffic officers who arrested you to verify their suspicions of your intoxicated nature, they may have subjected you to a series of tests. Firstly, you may have undertaken a preliminary breath test that estimated your BAC level to provide the officers with the green light for arrest.

Moreover, field sobriety tests are commonly issued to suspected drunk drivers. When conducting them, an officer will ask you to perform simple physical tasks that test your body mobility. Ideally, a sober person should undertake the tests with ease, while a person under the influence will have a challenging time.

Therefore, the tests provide some insight into the estimated level of intoxication you may have been under. For example, if the officer asks you to walk in a straight line and you fail, he/she may form probable cause to arrest you for a DUI offense.

Despite the imposition of tests before the arrest, it is necessary to remember that you can always respectfully decline to take them. However, a refusal to take tests could attract additional problems as your case progresses, especially if the arresting officers disclosed the importance of undertaking the tests.

After a DUI arrest, you will have to take a breathalyzer test that provides accurate information on your BAC levels. Alternatively, you may have to give blood or urine samples to check your intoxication levels before the traffic officers can record an official statement about the offense.

Once the police reports are ready for presentation to the prosecutor, he/she will refer to the matters disclosed in the official documents as evidence of your DUI offense.

On top of relying on police reports, surveillance footage is also beneficial to the prosecutor's case. When he/she accesses any recordings of your behavior or driving patterns from traffic surveillance cameras, the footage offers highly persuasive evidence against you.

For example, your face and vehicle registration number may be visible from the presented video footage, meaning that you will have a limited chance to counter the prosecution evidence. However, you may discredit the footage with good defenses without proven concrete actions related to a DUI.

Additionally, any witnesses present during your DUI testing and arrest may also appear in court to testify against you. Often, other police officers at the DUI checkpoint will be the witnesses in the matter, as they are likely to interact with you or come close during the breath tests and subsequent arrest.

The Child in Question Was Below Fourteen Years

After providing sufficient evidence to prove that you were driving when drunk or high, the prosecutor should also confirm that the minor was below fourteen. Since the statute issues a specific age for the crime element, the prosecutor's findings should be accurate as irrefutable presumptions of fact.

Proving a child's age should be easy, as the prosecutor will only need the minor's birth certificate and additional documentary evidence from the parents.

However, the matter becomes complicated when the child is not a relative or a known person. The prosecutor has to refer to multiple registration officers to confirm the minor's identity and age. You may also be under additional scrutiny for having an unidentified minor in the car, as suspicions of child abduction may arise.

Despite the numerous possibilities for your case, the prosecutor's findings must always have legal backing to support the claim. Thus, if he/she successfully retrieves information on the child's age, the prosecutor will successfully establish the crime element.

Apart from birth certificates, authorities like adoption agencies and foster care services may be useful to investigation officers who provide evidence to the prosecutor.

Consulting the different sources becomes useful when you are unsure of the child's identity. For example, if you offered the minor a lift when intoxicated, and no parents/guardians come forth to claim the child even after an arrest, combing through the different data centers becomes essential.

Hence, it helps you and your criminal defense lawyer confirm that the child's details are legitimate and are unchanged during the trial to prevent false evidence. 

Lastly, the minor's testimony on his/her age is also admissible in court. Here, the prosecutor will ask the child a series of questions that aim to deduce his/her birthdate to show that the minor was below fourteen years successfully.

You Wilfully Endangered the Minor

Lastly, the prosecutor should prove that your actions to put the minor in a dangerous situation were wilful, meaning that nobody forced you to drive under the influence with a child in the car.

Usually, providing evidence on the element of crime requires more circumstantial evidence, primarily because you may have engaged in the course of action for various reasons. That said, the prosecutor may focus more on the facts presented to him/her and create an analysis from there.

For example, if you faced arrest for the offense during the day when the minor should have been in school, you asked him/her to take a car ride with you; the unlawful actions will be wilful. Here, the prosecutor will have enough evidence based on your choice to ask the child into your car, knowing that you are under the influence.

Additionally, if you coerced or used threats to get the child into the vehicle with you, the prosecutor will automatically prove your guilty involvement in the offense. Nevertheless, he/she will first have to present proof of the forceful approach you undertook to get the child in the car.

The evidential sources may come from witness statements and testimonies. Moreover, police reports, surveillance footage, and additional investigative reports will serve to prove that you willfully endangered the child by having him/her in your car when intoxicated.

Penalties for the Offense of a DUI with a Passenger Under 14

If the prosecutor succeeds in proving all the crime elements required for the offense, you will face sentencing. As mentioned, the penalties issued for the crime are an enhancement to the standard DUI offenses. Hence, the penalty enhancements are only included if you face a conviction for offenses under section 23152(a) or (b) of the California Vehicle Code.

Therefore, you will receive an enhanced DUI punishment, depending on the type of offense you committed and whether you are a past offender. The penalties apply as follows:

A first time offender will receive a sentence of two more days in jail on top of serving the DUI sentence.

Second-time offenders will receive ten additional days to their sentence, while third-time offenders remain in custody for thirty more days.

Lastly, fourth or subsequent offenders will serve a sentence of ninety more days in jail for violation of section 23572 VC. However, the sentence enhancement only applies if the fourth time offender faces misdemeanor charges.

When the fourth offense attracts felony charges and convictions, the sentencing enhancement does not apply, as the felony attracts more severe punishment.

When considering the number of times you have faced previous convictions for a DUI crime with a passenger under fourteen years, the court restricts itself to ten years. Hence, any arrests and beliefs within the time frame are the only factors considered before receiving an enhancement.

Lastly, it is necessary to remember that any of the issued sentences are mandatory for the convicted defendant. Consequently, you cannot negotiate to reduce the additional penalties, as they accompany the main DUI punishment.

However, your criminal defense lawyer may negotiate for charge reductions with the prosecutor to prevent the issuance of sentence enhancements entirely. Here, your attorney can arrange for a plea bargain to reduce charges to a wet reckless offense. If successful, the penalties issued under section 23572 VC do not apply to your matter.

Aggravating Factors that Attract More Penalties

Even when facing charges for the aggravated offense, you will be subject to additional punishment for aggravating factors. The judge considers the factors as other safety hazards, especially to the minor inside your vehicle. Consequently, you may receive additional penalties for:

Having a BAC Level of Over 0.15%

Since the acceptable blood alcohol concentration level stands at 0.08%, any amount above this level indicated high intoxication levels. Usually, drivers operating vehicles under BAC levels at 0.15% or more face severe mind-body impairment, leading to severe accidents.

Apart from recording the high BAC levels, the court will concern itself with the kind of danger you posed to the minor when driving under the high intoxication levels. Hence, you may receive additional penalties, including attending mandatory DUI classes for longer.

Refusing to Take DUI Tests

Moreover, refusing to undertake breath tests or blood/urine DUI tests will also aggravate your case, primarily if the traffic officers explain the procedure’s importance. The matter may also worsen if you continue refusing to take the tests even after an arrest, as you will be in custody and should therefore submit to the police directives as ordered by the court.

Since a refusal to take DUI tests denies the officers a chance to establish or confirm your BAC levels, you may face additional penalties for delaying the court process and displaying contempt of court.

Also, a refusal to undertake the tests may serve as inference to your guilty engagement in a DUI offense, primarily because you are under suspicion of hiding information. Thus, despite your refusal, the matter may proceed based on preliminary findings that will serve as evidence against you in the trial.

Driving Recklessly

Also, concerns about your reckless driving patterns may attract more punishment or security to your case,  making it hard to secure a win. In this case, the judge also considers any possible danger you may have exposed to the minor using reckless driving practices.

For example, if you exceeded the speed limit in restricted speed zones, you could face more penalties, as you could have exposed the child to life-threatening situations. Similarly, if your reckless driving resulted in an accident with injuries to you or the minor, you also become eligible for more court-issued penalties, at the judge's discretion.

Defenses for a DUI with a Passenger Under 14

Before settling for the sentencing hearing, your criminal defense lawyer will have a chance to present legal defenses for your case to fight off the charges. The arguments he/she selects should be persuasive enough for the presiding judge to consider an acquittal or a significant charge reduction.

Therefore, your attorney should work towards discrediting the prosecutor's claims by raising reasonable doubt in his/her presentations on the elements of the crime. On top of this, your lawyer can introduce new aspects of the argument that create alternative ways of analyzing the case’s circumstances. Possible defenses for the crime include:

The Arresting Officer Did not Follow Correct DUI Checkpoint Procedures

After stopping a suspected DUI offender, traffic officers should follow the stipulated procedures to promote proper and fair testing or investigation process. For example, if the officers interrogate and arrest you, they should read out the Miranda laws.

Miranda provisions state a suspect's right to remain silent as the procedures continue to avoid giving self-incriminating evidence or committing aggravating actions. Hence, if your arresting officers did not follow the regulations, you may request for a suppression hearing whereby all evidence collected unfairly becomes inadmissible.

You Were Not Drunk or High

Moreover, multiple instances where inaccurate DUI test results caused unfair arrests have occurred. The scenarios arise where traffic officers use faulty or substandard breathalyzer devices.

Also, cases of rising DUI levels based on pre-existing conditions like diabetes may cause a recording of false BAC levels, even when you were not intoxicated. Therefore, your lawyer can present sufficient evidence to show that your alcohol concentration was within the 0.08% limit.

Alternative Charges for the Prosecutor to Apply to Your Case

Apart from the offense created under section 23572 CV, the prosecutor handling your matter may choose to charge you with alternative crimes. He/she will base the decision on whether other factors of the case overshadow the DUI offense by exposing the minor to additional danger.

Subsequently, you could face separate charges for child endangerment,  contrary to section 273(a) of the California Penal Code. If the matter proceeds to trial, the prosecutor will have to prove three main elements for the case, including:

You Imposed the Minor to Unfair Mental Stress and Pain

If your DUI with the minor caused him/her mental distress from the dangerous situation, the prosecutor might source sufficient evidence to prove the matter. Moreover, additional evidence on causing the child physical pain from an accident or coercion will be acceptable in court to convict you for the crime.

You Created Unreasonable Suffering for the Child

Where the prosecutor establishes that you had a chance to prevent carrying the child in your car when drunk, you will be answerable to the minor’s unfair imposition of suffering.

For example, suppose you picked the child from school when intoxicated, knowing that he/she had the alternative to take the bus or get a ride from another trusted adult. In that case, the prosecutor can use the circumstantial evidence against you.

You Engaged in Criminal Negligence

Lastly, the prosecutor will have to prove that you were criminally negligent by exposing the child to dangerous situations. Apart from driving when intoxicated, the prosecutor can also prove tout negligence by showing your reckless driving or any traffic violations you committed with the child in the vehicle.

If the prosecutor chooses to charge you with child endangerment, it helps to understand that you may face a conviction despite the child being over fourteen years. In the matter, a child is anyone who is below eighteen years old.

The prosecutor will also not consider whether you were to face a felony or misdemeanor DUI charge, as long as the child endangerment charge involved driving under the influence.

Penalties for the offense as a misdemeanor will lead to one year in county jail. As a felony, you may serve a sentence of up to six years in state prison.

Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

Dealing with DUI charges that involve endangering a minor may be quite challenging for you, primarily if the crime also attracts subsequent orders. You may often consider accepting the prosecutor's deals in exchange for a shorter sentence for the offense. However, working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer specializing in DUI offenses gives you a better chance of receiving positive case outcomes for your matter.

Reaching out to The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm is an excellent first step in working towards dropping the charges against you or receiving more lenient penalties for the offense. With our years of experience in criminal defense, you can count on us to provide excellent legal services for anyone facing DUI charges in Los Angeles. Contact us today at 310-935-1675.