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San Francisco DUI and Child Endangerment Lawyer

Sonoma child endangerment dui lawyer

Bay Area DUI Defense Lawyer Explains California DUI Law When Children Are Involved

Persons charged with DUI have potential exposure to child endangerment charges where a child is found in the vehicle. Penal Code §273a. A “child” is anyone under the age of 18—see Family Code §6500 and People v. Thomas (1976) 65 Cal.App.3d 854, 857, 858. Though “care and custody” is an element of the offense where no actual injury occurs, proof of that element does not require “a familial relationship but only a willingness to assume duties correspondent to the role of a caregiver.” People v. Toney (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 618, 621-622, quoting People v. Cochran (1998) 62 Cal.App.4th 826, 832.

Depending on the degree of danger to which the child was exposed, the charge may be prosecuted as either a felony or misdemeanor under Penal Code §273a(a), or as a straight misdemeanor under PC §273a(b). As a felony, the child endangerment offense is punishable by up to 3 years in state prison even if the DUI offense is only a misdemeanor! As a misdemeanor, it carries a sentence of up to one year in the county jail.

A less egregious way to punish you for having a child in the vehicle is by alleging a sentencing enhancement under Vehicle Code §23572 if there were one or more passengers under the age of 14 in the car. This requires a mandatory 48-hour jail sanction.

Some District Attorney offices routinely file the PC §273a charge even if the suspect was not booked on it, and regardless of the driver-child relationship, whether the child was in a safety restraint, the alcohol test result(s), and/or the manner of driving. Many police officers will book you on this additional offense regardless of the particular circumstances, thus requiring you to have posted additional bail money.

The VC §23572 enhancement can sometimes be used as an effective bargaining tool for getting the more serious PC §273a charge dismissed.

Call Paul Burglin now at 415-729-7300 to discuss your case and start mitigating the damages you are facing.

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