Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious criminal offense that carries certain penalties as provided under California Vehicle Code Section 23152 VC. It can also get to the point of being considered a felony if they are under some aggravating circumstances. The penalties imposed in DUI cases typically reflect the substantial risks that a driver who’s under the influence of alcohol or drugs can pose to him/herself, the passengers, and other people on the road. In certain circumstances, there may be factors present that would add to the penalties for a DUI if the driver exhibited certain aggravating behavior. One of the sentencing enhancements involves driving while intoxicated with a minor passenger who is under the age of 14. Merely being under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a minor passenger in your car can constitute sufficient evidence of child endangerment, regardless of your level of intoxication or driving conduct.

DUI with a Child under 14 in the car as set forth in Vehicle Code 23572 VC can result in sentence enhancement where a defendant faces other penalties in addition to the standard DUI penalties imposed under VC 23572. This means that you will definitely serve time in jail if convicted of DUI with child endangerment.

Different Types of DUI Charges in California

DUI charges in California are usually assigned degrees based on the level of intoxication of the driver at the time of the arrest. In certain circumstances, you may be charged with a DUI even if your blood-alcohol content (BAC) is below the legal limit. Conversely, you can be charged with extreme DUI or aggravated DUI if you were driving at twice the legal threshold. The justice will most likely slap you with an aggravated or felony DUI if found to be driving under the influence with a child under the age of 14 in the car. An intoxicated driver is likely to face murder charges if a child dies under such circumstances. While the driver may not have intended for the child to die, he/she may be guilty of intentionally endangering the child’s life by operating the vehicle under the influence.

How Prosecutors Handle VC 23572 DUI with a Child in a Vehicle

California VC 23572 is straightforward. If you had a child under 14 in the vehicle at the time of the arrest and are convicted of misdemeanor DUI, then the sentencing enhancement will be applied. Factors such as your driving pattern, your level of intoxication or whether you intended to cause harm to harm the child don’t really matter. The law is only concerned with two issues. Before rendering a sentence in a case involving DUI with a person under 14 in the car, the first question that the court will ask is whether you had physical and actual control of the car while you were intoxicated. In addition to that, the court will consider if you had a minor passenger under the age of 14 at the time you drove. The offense of DUI with child endangerment is a wobbler and this means that it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the harm to the minor. Even if charged with DUI with a child in the car, some prosecutors may also charge you with violating California child endangerment laws as an additional charge and not as an enhancement.

Fighting a DUI with Child Endangerment Sentence Enhancement

If you’re faced with a DUI with child endangerment enhancement, it’s important that you consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The competent lawyers at San Diego DUI Attorney have years of experience representing clients in all kinds of California DUI cases. When charged with a San Diego DUI, you may have options for fighting the charge even if the evidence provided against you looks overwhelming. Beating the DUI charge is the key to preventing enhanced sentencing. You can also contest the procedure used by the officer in your arrest as well as the chemical testing. You can have a strong defense if you were not driving at the point. If you choose to plead guilty or are found guilty, your San Diego DUI Attorney can make an argument for leniency at your sentencing.

Penalty enhancement for DUI with a minor passenger under 14 is only applicable if you’ve been convicted of VC 23152(a) DUI or VC 23152(b) driving with blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or above. Therefore, if we manage to beat the DUI case against you, the prosecutor must also drop the child endangerment charge and that means that VC 23572 will not apply. Your attorney can also manage to convince the Prosecutor to offer a plea deal and resolve the DUI offense as a reduced charge. You’ll be charged with “dry reckless” or “wet reckless” DUI pursuant to Vehicle Code section 23103/23103.5. In this case, the penalty enhancement for DUI with a child under 14 in the car under VC 23572 won’t apply. Furthermore, even if your attorney is unable to secure you an absolute dismissal of the case a plea bargain to have your DUI charges reduced will also help circumvent the sentence enhancement for DUI with Child Endangerment. It is imperative to have a skilled counsel on your side with the ability to credibly analyze your chances of winning the case and the possible risks and benefits of a plea deal.

Enhanced Penalties and Jail Time for DUI with a Child as a Passenger

Under VC 23572, if a motorist is convicted of DUI while a passenger below age 14 was in the vehicle, he/she will serve the sentence for the underlying DUI conviction along with serving the following additional and consecutive sentence:

  • First DUI conviction- 2 days in county jail,

  • Second DUI conviction- 10 days in county jail

  • Third DUI conviction- 30 days in county jail

  • Fourth or any other subsequent misdemeanor DUI conviction- 90 days in county jail

This sentence is mandatory and that means that you’ll definitely serve the time if convicted with a DUI with child endangerment enhancement. It’s important to note that “prior DUI convictions” only denote those convictions you suffered within a 10-year period before you were arrested with DUI with a minor passenger in the car. A fourth DUI in a 10-year period is a wobbler. In this case, the VC 23572 enhancement for DUI with child endangerment won’t apply.

In addition to the penalty enhancement for DUI with child endangerment, California law further imposes penalty enhancements for the following reasons:

  • Refusal to submit to a DUI breath, urine, or blood test

  • BAC level that measured at or above 0.15 percent

  • You were recklessly driving or speeding at 30 or more miles/hour over the limit on a freeway or at 20 or more miles/hour over the surface street limit

Facing both PC 273a Child Endangerment And VC 23572 DUI with a Child in the Car

Child endangerment under Penal Code 273(a) is a distinct offense, which can be filed either as a felony or a misdemeanor. California’s laws governing child endangerment cases are designed to punish individuals who deliberately expose a minor in a situation where his/her welfare and/or health may be imperiled. California courts have found drunk driving with a minor child under 14 in the car to fall into this category.

In DUI cases involving a child passenger, the prosecuting attorney may choose to charge any of the following:

  • The separate crime of child endangerment,

  • The VC 23572 DUI sentencing enhancement, or

  • Both Child endangerment AND DUI with a minor in the car.

However, it’s worth noting that you cannot be convicted of both child endangerment and DUI with a child in the car. The law prohibits the court from imposing the sentencing enhancement under VC 23572 on individuals who are already convicted of child endangerment. But it’s possible for you to be convicted for both ordinary DUI as well as child endangerment. You may be charged with child endangerment irrespective of whether the DUI case is filed as a felony or a misdemeanor, and the age of the child in the car. Anyone under 18 counts in this case. Child endangerment charges under Penal Code 273(a) are very serious and cannot be outrightly filed in every case involving DUI with a minor passenger. Prosecutors typically charge someone with child endangerment in the most serious cases.

For example, Andrew is driving with his 13-year-old son who is in the passenger seat and wearing his seat belt. A Highway Patrol Officer pulls Andrew over because his brake light is out. The officer begins a DUI investigation after he smells alcohol on Andrews’s breath. The DUI breath test shows that Andrew’s blood-alcohol content is 0.10 percent. Andrew does not have any prior DUI conviction. In this case, it’s likely that Andrew will be charged with VC 23572 DUI with a child under 14 in the car. Because this is not a serious DUI case, the prosecutor is unlikely to file child endangerment charges against Andrew.

Let’s look at another example:

Maria was pulled over for erratic driving and it turns out that she is slurring her speech and extremely intoxicated with a BAC of 0.15 percent. Her 3-year-old daughter is in the car and not strapped into the car seat. Because Maria’s offense is more serious, she may be charged with both PC 273a child endangerment and DUI instead of the DUI with a child in the car sentence enhancement.

You may be charged with a misdemeanor if you were involved in relatively innocuous conduct but there was no risk of great bodily harm or death to the minor. This may involve traveling a few miles over the limit, an equipment violation, failure to completely stop at a stop sign, or slightly weaving within your lane.

Willfully Endangering a Child is an Offense in California

California child endangerment law under PC 273(a) punishes an individual who willfully:

  • Allows or causes a child to suffer unreasonably

  • Places a minor in a situation where his/her health and safety is endangered

  • Imposes unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain on a minor


The defendant was criminally negligent in allowing or causing the child to be endangered or injured. Also, the prosecutor must show that if the defendant was the parent of the minor, he or she was not reasonably disciplining the child.

A child endangerment charge may depend on an adult’s failure to act or an adult’s action that is by allowing child endangerment or directly inflicting abuse. It is unlawful to place a child in a dangerous situation even if the child does not suffer any injuries, such as in the case of driving under the influence without causing an accident. The offense is placing the minor in a position where he/she can be harmed, irrespective of the consequences.

There are stiff penalties associated with a PC 273a child endangerment conviction. The charge is a wobbler and if you’re convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment, you’ll serve a maximum of one year in county jail. Conversely, you face a maximum of six years in a California state prison if convicted of felony child endangerment. In addition, the defendant may get a sentencing enhancement if he/she inflicted great bodily injury, which involves an additional there to six years. If the child dies as a result of the negligence, the defendant faces four additional and consecutive years in prison. One may be charged with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or second-degree murder if the child dies as a result of endangerment. A felony conviction in California can also count as a “strike” on your record as provided under California’s Three Strikes law. This could have a harsh impact on your life should you be convicted of another felony. The court can impose a sentence twice the original maximum on your second strike offense. Conversely, you may face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of a third strike.

For years, the team at San Diego DUI Attorney has been representing clients in cases where they’ve been of child endangerment. We have experience investigation such cases and coming up with the best defense strategies. Potential defenses we can raise to convince the judge to acquit you include that your conduct was within the realm of reasonable discipline as permitted by the law, you are a victim of false accusation, or the conduct was not intentional.

Examples of Actions that Violate Penal Code 273(a)

  • Leaving a child with a nanny who has a history of being abusive

  • Leaving a dangerous weapon where a child can easily access it

  • Not getting medical help for a child who is very ill or at the risk of dying

To be convicted of child endangerment under PC 273(a), the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you:

  • permitted or caused a child under your custody to be put in a position where they could get injured

  • injured or allowed a child under your custody to be injured

  • willfully causes unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child

  • willfully placed a child in a position where they could suffer unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain

When the law states “willfully” or “willingly,” it means that you’re being prosecuted for an offense that you did intentionally, regardless of whether or not you intended the outcome. This creates room for your attorney to argue that you engaged in that conduct unintentionally.

For instance, Brad is at a birthday party for his son’s friend who is 11 years old. While at the party, Brad chats with other fathers over a drink. Unbeknownst to him, the drink that he thinks is punch has been spiked. Brad gets into the car with his son and drives off after the party. He begins to feel a little weird but didn’t think that he might be under the influence. He starts to slightly weave within his lane and is pulled over by an officer. Because of the fact that he was driving under the influence with his 11-year-old son in the car, Brad is charged with DUI with child endangerment. Brad’s attorney argues that he was involuntarily intoxicated and that the conduct was not willful. His attorney also argues that the court cannot maintain the child endangerment charge because the act of driving under the influence is what satisfies the requirement that the child was exposed to risk. While this is a rare defense, it serves to show that the defendant must have willfully or intentionally placed the child at risk.

Finding a San Diego DUI with Passenger under 14 Attorney Near Me

In San Diego, charges of DUI with a passenger under 14 in the car are taken very seriously and prosecuted vigorously. The consequences could be very severe and when your future is at stake, you must reach out at once to a lawyer and obtain the legal help you need. The team at San Diego DUI Attorney is skilled and experienced in representing clients accused with all manner of DUI cases, including those that involve child endangerment. We understand that this is a very sensitive matter and we’ll be respectful and sensitive to the privacy of your family. Our attorneys know and have what it takes to get your charges reduced or dismissed entirely. We’ll build a strong defense and fight hard to ensure that you get the best representation possible.

Contact San Diego DUI Attorney today at 619-535-7150 to discuss your case and learn how we can help secure your freedom.