Getting a DUI at any time or any place can put you in a world of hurt. Driving under the influence kills hundreds of Californians yearly and for this reason, California state law does all it can to protect its citizens from drunk driving. One way the law accomplishes this is by giving harsher punishments to those who hurt others as a result of their DUI or those who put vulnerable people at risk while driving under the influence. Either hurting or putting someone at significant risk from your drinking and driving will mean more jail or prison time, more fines and penalties and possibly a more severe criminal charge. This usually means a misdemeanor charge will be raised to a felony. Having minor children, yours or someone else's, in the car with you while you get a DUI is one of these scenarios that results in harsher punishments. Driving with a minor child with you while you get a DUI is what is known as a DUI enhancement. DUI enhancements are aggravating factors of your case that will result in a more severe punishment than a regular DUI would warrant. Enhancements can also result in separate charges in addition to your DUI, dependent on the circumstances. In California, the definition of a minor for DUI enhancement purposes is someone under the age of 14. In general, having a minor under the age of 14 with you in the car at the point that you get a DUI will result in longer jail time and little or no room for negotiation on any of the standard punishments that come along with a DUI. A first offense DUI with a minor in the car charge can result in a sentencing enhancement of two days in jail, on top of what may be ordered normally for a regular DUI. For a second offense, you could face an additional 10 days in jail, on top of what is regularly ordered. A third offense results in an extra 30 days of ordered jail time. Your fourth offense will result in a mandatory 90 days in jail. You may also be ordered to install an ignition interlock device, or IID, any car you own and/or operate. Cleary, the consequences of having a minor child under 14 in the car with you while you get your DUI are steep. On top of that, you will have to arrange for childcare while you are in custody and the child you had with you will have a very stressful event to deal with. Depending on the circumstances of the event, you may also face a possible child endangerment charge. You can get this charge if the child with you is any minor under the age of 18. It is extremely important you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you feel you may be facing these charges. These are serious charges that can have a significant effect on your reputation. While DUIs are common enough criminal charges, child endangerment will most likely prevent you from working or volunteering with children in the future. However, if your BAC was not significantly over .08%, the child was wearing their seat belt and seemed to be protected in other ways and you were not otherwise driving unsafely, you may not be charged with child endangerment. Only in cases where it is clear you were acting in disregard for the child's safety will a child endangerment case be raised. In any case, driving while impaired with a minor in the car is most likely a mistake you will never make again. Unfortunately, you could have been innocently taking your child home from a dinner where you had just a few drinks. It is best to avoid drinking and driving with minors in the car at all costs but if you find yourself facing such charges, contact an attorney today to discuss your case options.
If you are facing enhanced DUI charges in Tulare, Kings or Fresno counties, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can help. Experienced in DUI and criminal defense, attorney Christopher Martens can fight aggressively for you to ensure you are charged fairly and justly based on correct facts. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss your options for defending your case.