The crime of driving under the influence (DUI) is a severe offense in the eyes of the law. In addition to putting your life in danger, impaired driving can also place the lives of other road users and passengers onboard at risk of severe bodily injury or death.
While the crime of DUI is generally severe, the ultimate penalties you will face upon conviction could be harsh if you had a passenger under 14 onboard at the time of your arrest on suspicion that you were impaired driving.
Even if you are a first-time offender, a DUI charge conviction will attract enhanced penalties if you had a minor as a passenger in your vehicle because the court will consider this as child endangerment. When you are in legal custody or under investigation for an alleged DUI with a passenger under 14 offense, sitting and worrying about what the case could turn into will not help.
Instead, you should hire a skilled DUI attorney to help you build defenses to challenge the allegations you are up against for the best possible outcome. That is where experienced and reliable attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney come in. Our attorneys will stay by your side during these challenging times to help you convince the judge to either reduce or drop the alleged DUI charge.
An Overview of Primary DUI Laws That You Ought to Know
Generally speaking, DUI laws are harsh and strict due to the potential dangers of driving or operating a vehicle while under the influence. Below are the two primary laws defining the crime of DUI:
Vehicle Code (VC) 23152(a)
According to VC 23152(a), it is illegal for any person to drive or operate a car while he/she is under the influence of alcohol or any alcoholic beverage. Also known as drunk driving, this offense is chargeable and punishable as a misdemeanor even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Vehicle Code VC 23152(b)
VC 23152(b) is another law you can violate when you drive with alcohol in your system. Unlike VC 23152(a), which makes it illegal to drive with any amount of alcohol in your body system, VC 23152(b) makes it unlawful to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above. Also known as driving with excessive BAC, this DUI crime is also a misdemeanor in the eyes of the court.
The penalties you will face upon a conviction for any of these offenses will depend on the number of past DUI convictions you have on your record and other aggravating factors surrounding the alleged DUI case. Some of the aggravating factors that could heighten your penalties upon a conviction for the alleged DUI offense include (but are not limited to):
- Your BAC level was twice the legal level or threshold
- You had a passenger aged below fourteen (14) years in your car
- The alleged DUI led to the bodily injury or death of another person
This article will generally focus on DUI involving a passenger under 14 as one of the aggravating factors that could make your penalties for the alleged DUI offense severe upon conviction at trial.
What to Expect Upon an Arrest for an Alleged DUI With a Passenger Under 14 Charge
If the police officers have probable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence, they will arrest you. Here is what to expect once the police initiate an arrest and take you into custody on suspicion that you are a culprit in a DUI case:
A Chemical DUI Blood or Urine Test
In addition to testing your BAC level using a breathalyzer, the arresting officer will require you to consent to a chemical blood or urine test once you go to the police station for the same. While a chemical blood or urine test is more credible, it is more invasive and will take longer than a breathalyzer test to obtain accurate results of your BAC level.
The Booking Process
After obtaining accurate results of your BAC level, the arresting officer or booking officer will require you to pass through an administrative procedure formally known booking process, where he/she will:
- Take your mugshot (passport-like photo)
- Take your fingerprints
- Record the alleged DUI charge, your name, and date of birth
- Search your person for illegal or foreign objects
- Confiscate your belongings and personal items, including watches, rings, necklaces, and clothing
- Hold you in the detention hall, awaiting your release on bail or arraignment hearing
If you are eligible for a release on bail and the bail amount for your unique case is already predetermined at their bail schedule, the arresting officer will allow you to clear your bail while at the station.
However, if the bail amount for your unique case is not predetermined, you will have to wait for the arraignment hearing to convince the judge you deserve a release on bail, pending your case outcome.
The DMV Hearing
Once the police arrest you for an alleged DUI offense, an automatic suspension of your driver's license (DL) by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will go into effect. However, you can challenge this suspension by requesting a DMV administrative hearing within ten (10) days after an arrest for an alleged DUI offense.
The purpose of this hearing is to convince the administrative hearing officer that you deserve to retain your driving privileges before the judgment of the accused DUI charge. While it is less formal than a DUI court case hearing, hiring an attorney to represent your best interests is vital during this hearing to increase the odds of retaining your DL.
The Arraignment Hearing
After determining your accurate BAC level and passing through the booking process, the police will take your DUI case to court for the arraignment hearing. Since you are not yet guilty of the alleged DUI charge, this hearing must occur as soon as possible, probably within 24 hours if your arrest did not happen on the weekend.
However, if your arrest for the alleged DUI charge was on a weekend or holiday, you could have to wait for up to 48 hours for the arraignment hearing when a judge is available to hear your case. At this hearing, the judge will:
- Inform of your legal rights, including the right to have a public defender represent your best interests on the alleged DUI charge if you do not have money to hire a private attorney
- Inform of your plea options, including guilty, not guilty, and no contest. Before you choose your ideal plea option from any of these options, you could want to speak with your attorney for relevant advice
If you choose to take a not guilty plea, the court will schedule your trial date, where you will challenge the allegations you are up against for the best favorable outcome. Also, if you are not already out of custody on bail, the judge can decide your eligibility for a jail release on bail immediately after this hearing.
When determining your eligibility for a jail release on bail and the amount you will pay for your unique DUI case, the judge will consider the factors listed below:
- Your history of appearing to the required court hearings after obtaining a jail release on bail
- Your likelihood of leaving or traveling out of the state or country after obtaining your freedom on bail
- Your criminal background
- The severity and facts of the alleged DUI charge
Elements of Crime in the Alleged DUI With a Passenger Under 14 Charge
Generally speaking, lawmakers are very strict when it comes to protecting children. You will probably face severe consequences if the prosecutor can prove to the judge that the allegations you are up against are true beyond a reasonable doubt.
VC 23572 is the law that provides guidelines for sentence enhancements if you are guilty of driving under the influence or impaired driving with a passenger under 14 onboard. However, for the court with the jurisdiction over your case to find you guilty of VC 23572 violation, the prosecutor must prove the following elements using adequate evidence:
- You were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- You had a passenger aged below 14 years onboard at the time of the arrest
Unlike other DUI cases, the above elements are enough to prove that you are guilty of VC 23572 violation. It is worth noting that DUI with a passenger under 14 is not an intent-based crime. That means you could be guilty of the alleged VC 23572 violation offense even if you did not have the intent to hurt or harm the child.
When the prosecutor proves these two elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you will face standard penalties for the alleged DUI charge and enhanced penalties for endangering the life of a child under 14.
Since DUI with a child below the age of 14 years is an aggravating factor that can make the alleged DUI charge a felony, you should speak with an attorney without delay, even if you are a first-time offender. Your DUI attorney will prepare solid and winning defense arguments to help you obtain the best possible results at every stage of the prosecution process.
Penalties You Should Anticipate Upon Conviction for the Alleged VC 23572 Violation Charge
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, a conviction for VC 23572 violation will only enhance the standard penalties you are likely to face upon conviction for the underlying alleged DUI charge. Depending on the number of DUI convictions you have on your record, you should expect the following sentence enhancements upon conviction for the alleged VC 23572 violation offense:
- Additional forty-eight (48) hours in jail for a first-time DUI offense
- Additional ten (10) days of jail time for a second-time DUI offense
- Additional thirty (30) days of jail time for a third-time DUI offense
- Additional ninety (90) days of jail time for a fourth-time DUI offense
It is important to note that the above additional sentence enhancements are compulsory and will be consecutive to the underlying standard penalties you will face upon conviction for the alleged DUI charge. For a first-time DUI offense, a conviction could result in the following potential penalties:
- Up to six months in jail
- $1000 maximum fine
- Misdemeanor probation for not more than five years
- DL suspension for not more than four months
- Three to nine months of DUI school
- Install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car for not more than six months
If it is your second or subsequent conviction for a DUI charge, the standard penalties you will face will be harsher than those listed above for a first-time DUI charge conviction. However, there are high chances that you can avoid these penalties and possible sentence enhancement if you have a skilled attorney in your corner.
Legal Defenses That Can Challenge the Alleged VC 23572 Violation Charges
Generally, the key to avoiding the possible sentence enhancements you could face upon conviction for the alleged VC 23572 violation charge is to convince the court to drop or dismiss the underlying alleged DUI charge. A skilled attorney could use the following applicable legal defenses to challenge the alleged VC 23572 violation charges for the best possible outcome:
Objective Signs of Intoxication Does Mean or Indicate That You Were Impaired Driving
The arresting law enforcement officer could have spotted symptoms or signs of impairment from your physical appearance or behavior before concluding that you were impaired driving. For example, a flushed face, slurred speech, watery eyes, and red eyes are all indicators of impairment or intoxication.
Hence, during a DUI investigation, the officers usually look to see if they can spot any of these symptoms of intoxication in you. However, having or exhibiting any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you were impaired driving. Your DUI attorney can challenge this evidence from the arresting officer by arguing that these signs were due to innocent reasons such as:
- An underlying medical condition
- Eye irritation
You are a Victim of Police Misconduct
The court understands that It is also possible that the arresting officers did not follow the right procedures before initiating the arrest for the alleged DUI offense. Some of the most common examples of police misconduct include:
- Arresting a defendant or DUI suspect without a probable cause
- Failing to inform a defendant about his/her Miranda rights
- Not adhering to the 15-minute observation rule under Title 17 of the Code of Regulations during a DUI investigation
- Conducting warrantless or illegal search and seizure on DUI suspects or suspects of any illegal activity
If you are a victim of one of these forms of police misconduct, your DUI attorney can request a suppression hearing under Penal Code section 1538.5. The suppression hearing can:
- Dismiss the illegally or improperly obtained evidence
- Give your DUI attorney a pretrial opportunity to point out these issues during a pretrial hearing to convince the prosecutor to drop or reduce the alleged DUI charges
Your Field Sobriety Test Results (FSTs) Were Inaccurate
Before an arrest for an alleged DUI offense, the officers could require you to perform particular FSTs to check or gauge your physical and mental ability to drive a vehicle like a cautious sober driver. Some of the standard FSTs the officer could require to perform at a DUI sobriety checkpoint include the following:
- Walk and turn test
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
- One-leg stand test
While these FSTs could help an officer determine whether or not you were impaired driving, they are also prone to errors. Your defense attorney can argue that your poor performance on the FSTs is due to innocent reasons like poor lighting, uneven ground surface, or bad weather to obtain the best possible outcome on the alleged DUI offense.
The DUI Sobriety Checkpoint Was Non-Compliant With the Law
DUI sobriety checkpoints must comply with strict legal requirements. Some of these requirements include (but are not limited to):
- No detaining any motorist or DUI suspect for too long
- The officer in charge should make an advertisement of the checkpoint location ahead of time
- The method or criteria for stopping DUI suspects should be fair and neutral
- The DUI checkpoint must adhere to proper safety precautions
If the DUI sobriety checkpoint was not compliant with either of these strict requirements, your DUI attorney could challenge the prosecutor's evidence to obtain the best favorable outcome.
These are some of the few defenses your DUI attorney could use at trial to obtain a lighter charge or case dismissal. A careful and keen examination of your unique DUI case is necessary to determine the best viable legal defenses that will likely work in your favor to obtain a desirable outcome.
Blea Bargain Options Available for the Alleged VC 23572 Violation Charge
To avoid the uncertainty of a trial proceeding that could result in a conviction for the alleged VC 23572 violation charge, your defense attorney could take any plea option the prosecutor is willing to give you. In most cases, plea options the prosecutor could offer will eliminate possible sentence enhancement you could face upon conviction for the alleged VC 23572 violation charge.
Below are possible plea bargain options the prosecutor could offer you for the alleged VC 23572 violation charge:
- Dry reckless charge
- Wet reckless charge
- A traffic infraction charge, like running a stop sign or speeding
Accepting any of the above plea bargain options means you have to accept the DUI allegations you are facing are true. In exchange, the prosecutor will reduce the alleged VC 23572 violation charge to a less severe offense with less harsh penalties like no DUI school, little jail time, and lower fines.
Your attorney's legal skills and aggressiveness will go a long way during plea bargain negotiations with the prosecutor to obtain a lighter charge. Ensure the attorney you have in your corner is skilled, experienced, and reputable for the best legal representation on the alleged VC 23572 violation charge for the best possible outcome.
Offenses Related to VC 23572 Violation Charge
If the prosecutor's evidence is insufficient to convict you for the alleged VC 23572 violation charge, he/she could file a related offense against you. Depending on the alleged case's facts and circumstances, the prosecutor could pursue any of the following closely related crimes against you:
PC 273(a) is the statute that makes it illegal for any person to willfully expose a minor (under 18) to unjustifiable danger, suffering, or pain. That means even if you are not the biological parent of the child in question, the prosecutor can charge you with child endangerment if he/she has sufficient evidence against you.
A conviction for PC 273(a) violation can result in a jail time of not more than a year and a fine not exceeding $1000.
Reckless Driving and Excessive Speed
According to VC 23582, the additional sentence enhancement for reckless driving and excessive speed will apply when:
- You did drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs and
- You drive over twenty (20) miles per hour in a reckless way
Additional penalties you could face under this statute include:
- Additional DUI classes
- Additional jail time
- Install an IID
- A longer DL suspension by the DMV
Like VC 23572 violation charge, these additional penalties will be consecutive to the penalties for the underlying DUI charge.
Find an Experienced DUI Attorney Near Me
Aggressive legal defense is vital if you are under arrest or investigation for an alleged VC 23572 violation charge. A skilled attorney will leave no stone unturned when preparing persuasive defenses to challenge the prosecutor's case against you.
We at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney will ensure you have the best legal representation possible to convince the judge to drop or reduce the alleged VC 23572 violation charge. We believe every person can make a mistake and will do our best to challenge the alleged charge for the best possible outcome.
We invite you to call us at 424-333-0943 to discuss details of the alleged charge with our understanding attorneys.