In California, DUI laws are designed to apply greater penalties when aggravating factors are present in your case. A simple DUI traffic stop can become more serious if there is a child in the motor vehicle with you. This may be considered child endangerment and result in an enhanced sentence if you are convicted. If you are charged with a San Diego DUI with a child passenger in the car, you will need the help of a skilled DUI lawyer. Contact us today to learn how Jessica McElfresh has helped countless individuals facing charges.
What is DUI Child Endangerment?
Child endangerment is a sentencing enhancement in any DUI matter. Accordingly, it only becomes relevant after being found guilty. The matter is very simple and the court is not concerned with your overall intentions. So for example, the court will not look into whether or not you had intentions to harm the child or that you were driving in such a manner to endanger the child. To satisfy the law and the resulting increased penalties, the court is concerned with only two facts:
- You pleaded guilty or were found guilty of a DUI, and
- There was a child under the age of 14 in your car at the time of the DUI charge.
If a prosecutor proves these conditions were present, then you will face an increased sentence in addition to the penalties for the underlying DUI.
It is important to note that while child endangerment is a sentencing enhancement in relation to DUI offenses, the prosecution can pursue the crime of child endangerment as a separate offense. When this happens, the matter may proceed as a misdemeanor or a felony. Under this charge, the law seeks to prosecute individuals who willfully endanger the health or welfare of a child. Driving under the influence is one such behavior that falls under this classification of child endangerment.
Can I Go to Jail for a San Diego DUI with a Child Passenger in the Car?
Jail time will depend on a number of factors. Whether this is your first DUI conviction will be on the list to consider in sentencing. Since DUIs are generally charged as misdemeanors, a first offender may often escape jail time. However, with a child endangerment enhancement, in addition to the sentence for the DUI, the court can also impose the following:
- 2 days in jail if it is a first DUI
- 10 days in jail for a second DUI
- 30 days in jail for third DUI
- 90 days in jail for a fourth or subsequent DUI
In considering your prior convictions, the court will only take into consideration DUI convictions from the last 10 years. However, if you are separately charged with child endangerment, you could face up to 1 year in jail if the matter is a misdemeanor, or up to 6 years in prison if charged with felonious child endangerment.
Can I Fight My DUI?
When charged with a San Diego DUI with a child in the car, you should never plead guilty or agree to any lesser charge until you have spoken with a lawyer. Despite what may look like an overwhelming amount of evidence against you, you may have options for fighting your charge.
The key to preventing enhanced sentencing in relation to child endangerment is to beat the DUI charge. Accordingly, you can contest the chemical testing and the procedure employed by the police in your arrest and testing, and, if you were not driving at the point, you can have a strong defense at trial. However, if you are found guilty or you choose to plead guilty, your lawyer can make an argument for leniency at your sentencing.
In addition to fighting the DUI charge, an experienced DUI lawyer may be able to get the charge dismissed based on the circumstances of the case. When dismissed, there is no need for a trial. Alternatively, your lawyer could negotiate to have your charge reduced, in which case the enhanced sentencing may not apply.
How a San Diego Criminal Lawyer Can Help
For years, McElfresh Law has been representing individuals charged with criminal offenses. We are experienced and skilled at criminal defense and understand the law and the system. We provide high-quality legal representation not only for your DUI charge, but also for any separate charge you may face after an accusation of a San Diego DUI with a child in the car. Having the right lawyer on your side can make a huge difference when charged with a crime. Call attorney Jessica McElfresh today at (858) 756-7107 and we can discuss how to secure your freedom and keep you out of jail.