If you are arrested for DUI and have a passenger under the age of 14 in your car with you offense, you may wind up facing a charge of child endangerment.
One example that came up in the news recently, involved a woman who was involved in a police chase after the police attempted to pull her over for speeding. According to news reports, in addition to speeding she also drove unsafely in other ways during the chase, including weaving around from lane to lane and cutting other vehicles off. After the police finally caught up and arrested her, among the charges she faced were misdemeanor DUI and failure to comply with a peace officer. She was also charged with felony child endangerment, because her six-year-old daughter was in the car with her.
For a DUI incident, are you automatically charged with child endangerment if there's a passenger under the age of 14 in your car?
You don't automatically face a charge of child endangerment. But it's one of the possibilities, and prosecutors can certainly choose to pursue those charges against you.
For a DUI charge, having a child under 14 in the car is considered grounds for enhanced penalties which could include a longer jail sentence and greater fines. Other grounds for enhanced penalties for DUI charges include a high blood alcohol content (BAC) and reckless driving.
Separately from these enhanced DUI penalties, prosecutors have the option of charging you with child endangerment. Child endangerment could be either a misdemeanor or a felony, at the prosecutors' discretion.
So if you have a child under the age of 14 in the car and get arrested for DUI, you could be looking at enhanced penalties for your DUI charge or a charge of child endangerment or both. What prosecutors decide to charge you with is based on a number of factors including your prior criminal history, the degree of recklessness in your driving, and the age of the child and how much danger they were likely facing.
If you live in or around Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar, Menifee, Lake Elsinore, Perris, Banning, Corona, Hemet or Riverside, be sure to contact us if you're facing any criminal charges. It's possible that you're innocent or that the charges are exaggerated and unwarranted. Whatever the case happens to be, an experienced criminal defense attorney will carefully go over the details with you and craft a strong defense.