DUI offenses are among California's most commonly reported cases due to the large percentage of motorists driving under the influence. Therefore, the law provides sentence enhancements for various offense categories. This is because case circumstances differ, meaning that some situations in your matter are not identical to another arrested suspect. Among the variations of a DUI offense is a DUI with a passenger under fourteen years. Doubtless, the passenger in your car is a minor, and you risk facing additional penalties for endangering their safety. Upon facing this charge, you want to contact your criminal defense attorney to prepare a defense case as soon as possible. With Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, you will receive all the help you need to source evidence and prepare a solid case against the prosecutor. Our team is skilled and well-experienced in handling DUI cases, so that you can expect high-quality services.
What a DUI With a Passenger Under 14 Years Charge Entails
The California Vehicle Code prohibits driving under the influence under section 23152 and further prohibits other variations of the offense in different areas. The specific provision that prohibits drunk driving with a child under fourteen years is section 23572. Based on the legal guidelines, you will receive an enhanced sentence on top of the penalties available for a regular DUI charge.
Subsequently, the law prevents DUI with a minor under fourteen in the vehicle through deterrence, as parties are more likely to avoid the possibility of a sentence enhancement. Thus, you should note that regular DUI penalties still apply, depending on whether you are a first-time or repeat offender. Afterward, the judge will issue the sentence enhancement for having a minor in your car.
Hence, the most distinguishing factor in this case compared to a regular DUI charge is having a child in the car. As a result, the prosecutor’s case will focus on highlighting this element instead of proving that you were under the influence.
Typically, the prosecutor will enter the charge as a misdemeanor unless any aggravating factors exist in your case. These may include causing a DUI accident with injuries/fatalities with the minor in the car or having the minor present with an intention to abduct them. If any aggravating factors are present, you could face felony charges, attracting even harsher penalties.
Elements of Crime Related to the Charge
Once the prosecutor takes over your case, they must satisfy the burden of proof imposed on them. This is based on common law practice that advocates for a fair judicial process. On top of this, the prosecutor should ensure that the evidence they present will show that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Without establishing this factor for all elements of crime, the judge or jury cannot find you guilty.
Subsequently, you want to understand the arguments the prosecutor relies on to help you anticipate their position and attack it. This way, you can improve your chances of a favorable case outcome.
The following are the elements of crime relevant to a DUI with a minor under fourteen as a passenger:
You Were Under the Influence of Alcohol
Firstly, the prosecutor needs to establish that you were under the influence of alcohol. This is because the element builds on you committing the offense and warrants penalties against you. As a result, you can expect the prosecution team to hold all relevant information about your intoxication levels and rely on it during the trial.
For example, test results from the breathalyzer test administered by a traffic officer upon stopping you will serve as evidence to show that you were intoxicated. Furthermore, the prosecutor can rely on police reports where the breathalyzer reports are unavailable or may take longer to produce in court.
Police reports are a significant evidential source for the prosecution team because they regularly interact with law enforcement officers. You can also expect the officers in charge of your arrest to present testimony as further corroboration of the prosecutor's reports.
The additional testimonial evidence from the officer can also elaborate on the state they found you in, especially if you were significantly inebriated. For example, they can provide details on your physical appearance, particularly if you have bloodshot eyes.
Further, any slurred speech and lack of body coordination serve as evidence pointing toward your intoxication. You can also expect the officer to testify regarding your breath and whether they found any alcohol bottles inside the vehicle. Based on this, you want to liaise with your criminal defense attorney in good time and discuss the best defenses to apply to counter the prosecutor.
Your Blood Alcohol Concentration(BAC) Was Above the Legal Limit
Secondly, the prosecutor should elaborate on your blood alcohol concentration level during the arrest to justify why traffic officers stopped and arrested you. This is because while alcohol consumption is not encouraged for drivers, taking small quantities does not necessarily result in a DUI.
For the avoidance of doubt, the law in California applies a BAC limit that motorists should not exceed if they are to drive after drinking. The legal threshold stands at 0.08% BAC, and readings above this on the breathalyzer indicate a DUI violation.
The prosecution team will still rely on the breathalyzer results to prove that you broke the existing DUI regulations. Hence, the prosecutor will read the BAC level recorded after your test as proof that the arresting officer had probable cause to apprehend you.
By presenting on your BAC level, the prosecutor aims to reduce your chances of contesting your entire arrest, hence your current charge. Therefore, you want to ensure that the recordings used as evidence in court are accurate to avoid facing penalties wrongfully.
You Were Driving a Vehicle
Further, the prosecutor must prove that you were driving the vehicle in question upon operating it and moving it from one point to another. It is immaterial whether you drove for a short distance, provided you drove under the influence. The emphasis on proving that you moved the vehicle is based on the need to present the criminal action amounting to a DUI violation.
Additionally, the prosecutor will strive to prove that you moved the vehicle to prevent you from relying on technicalities that you did not drive. This is common when presenting defenses, as the defense attorney attempts to cast reasonable doubt in the prosecutor's case.
Hence, the prosecution team will source any evidence linking that shows you were driving. For example, surveillance footage from your date of arrest is relevant in court, primarily if it entails footage showing you behind the wheel. Similarly, any witnesses who saw you driving before your arrest may also appear in court to support the prosecutor's position and further reduce your chances of a rebuttal.
However, you should remember that your defense lawyer can raise questions to cast reasonable doubt during the cross-examination. Thus, you do not have to worry about the prosecutor persuading the judge or jury immediately after their presentation.
There Was a Minor Under Fourteen Years in The Car
Lastly, the prosecutor must prove that you drove with a minor below fourteen years in the vehicle. This element is equally crucial to solidifying the prosecution case, as it helps distinguish your DUI charge from a regular one. The element, therefore, requires the prosecutor to rely on sufficient proof, as failure to do so may cause reasonable doubts regarding your offense.
The main point of contention is whether the child was under fourteen. However, proving the child's age is often straightforward, primarily if the prosecutor can source their birth certificate or any other relevant documents that display their age. Despite this, not all documents are authentic, so you can raise a point of concern on the issue if you strongly suspect fabricated documents.
Moreover, most arrested suspects with a child in the vehicle are the parents, close relatives or guardians. Thus, while the law enforcement officers may presume the child to be below fourteen years, you can provide evidence to the contrary to question the need for your arrest. Partnering with your attorney will provide more information on the best approach to prove that the child was older than the alleged age.
Defenses Applicable for the Charge
The criminal trial process also allows an accused person to defend themselves after the prosecutor closes their case. Since this will be your chance to present your position, you want to make adequate preparations for your case by sourcing relevant evidence.
Furthermore, you can study the prosecutor's presentation to establish whether they relied on false accusations or unclear facts. Doing so will help you establish whether any loopholes exist, and you will have a better chance of successfully casting doubt on their case.
You should also note that some defenses will not guarantee a complete acquittal of the charges. Instead, they serve to mitigate the circumstances and potentially reduce your penalties.
Nevertheless, the presiding judge, jury or DMV officer handling your case maintains discretion on how to rely on the defenses. On top of this, the quality of evidence you use to support your defense argument will significantly impact whether it sways the case in your favor.
The following are applicable defenses:
You Were Not Under the Influence
Due to a physical evaluation, many traffic officers may assume you were under the influence. This means they justify your arrest by relying on how you look or act instead of administering a breathalyzer test. However, the officer may be mistaken, resulting in a wrongful arrest and charge.
Thus, you can oppose the prosecutor's claim of intoxication by challenging the information that the traffic officers involved in your arrest relied on. For example, if they stated that your eyes were bloodshot, you can dispute this by stating whether you suffer from eye allergy problems. This common condition results in red eyes and should not be mistaken for being drunk.
Similarly, your behavior may have appeared odd because you were distraught or were suffering from the onset of a disease. If so, you will have cast reasonable doubt on the justifications that resulted in your arrest, challenging the need to impose penalties.
Noteworthy, you should back all your allegations with proof to avoid perjury accusations. For example, if you have a medical allergy, you want to present a doctor's report to affirm it and support your argument.
Further, you can call on witnesses to testify on the circumstances that caused you to be emotionally upset, leading the arresting officers to assume you were drunk.
Your case circumstances may vary from the examples discussed, so you can consult your criminal defense attorney on whether to source alternative evidential sources. This way, you can increase your chances of success and avoid penalty enhancement.
The Police and Prosecutor Relied on Inaccurate BAC Test Results
Secondly, you could argue that the devices or test methods used to obtain your intoxication levels produced inaccurate results. Subsequently, you will state that the breathalyzer device used to record your BAC levels were faulty or that chemical/blood test procedures were incorrect.
Relying on this defense requires sufficient proof to back your claims, and it may be challenging to acquire the necessary evidence. This is because you are questioning the integrity of the devices and procedures that law enforcement officers and their associates apply. Typically, you would be unable to detect whether any shortcomings caused inaccurate outcomes.
However, you can still rely on the argument, especially when you are sure of not being intoxicated at the time of the arrest. Logically, the breathalyzer device or urine/blood samples should not display alcohol content in the blood unless the test methods were incorrect.
If you strongly believe that the BAC results are inaccurate, you can request the court to study the device or order a retest. However, this request depends on whether the samples obtained at your arrest are still available and viable for a subsequent test. Since arrested persons appear in court or the DMV office within days of arrest, the samples should still be available.
On the other hand, if conducting a secondary test is impractical, you will need to prove your claims sufficiently. As a result, you want to provide evidence that shows you were not under the influence, and even if you took alcohol, your BAC level had not exceeded the 0.08% limit.
There Was No Minor Passenger
Moreover, you can contest having driven with a minor under fourteen by contesting their age or their presence in the vehicle altogether. Doing so is not uncommon, as some officers may exaggerate your charges to include circumstances that did not occur. Nonetheless, you want to be strategic with your defense and ensure that your position is unquestionable.
For example, if you want to deny that the minor was below fourteen years, your defense attorney should help you obtain relevant birth or registration documents that display the minor's correct age. You should also ensure that the documents are original or certified copies. Doing this will reduce the chances of objections from the prosecutor.
Alternatively, you can deny the complete presence of a minor in the car, alluding to the fact that the arresting officers created a false report against you. At the same time, you want to prove that you were alone in the vehicle by producing evidence on the facts. For example, if you have installed cameras in your vehicle to record the internal space, you can present your footage to support your position.
The Police Did Not Have Probable Cause to Arrest You
Additionally, you can rely on this argument to show that you underwent an unlawful arrest, meaning that your entire case is wrongfully before a judge or DMV officer.
Standard police procedure requires an officer to form probable cause before arresting a suspect. To satisfy this requirement, they should either find the suspect engaged in the wrongful act in question. Alternatively, they should obtain evidence to show that they have compelling reasons to find the arrested person likely to have committed an offense.
In this case, probable cause would result from BAC levels above 0.08%, meaning that the officer should have administered a breathalyzer test. Therefore, this defense may be helpful if the police apprehended you without any test results or compelling evidence to prove your DUI offense. However, you should note that the counterargument may not necessarily protect you from being guilty but only serve to increase the chances of a sentence reduction.
Penalties for a DUI with a Minor Below Fourteen as a Passenger
After both parties close their cases, the presiding judge or DMV officer will take time to deliberate on the matter and reach a decision. If the prosecutor succeeds in proving you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you can expect to receive enhanced penalties for the DUI charge.
Notably, the judge or officer will order the regular DUI charges as baseline punishment before enhancing your sentence for having a minor in the vehicle with you. Hence, you want to learn the basic penalties and understand how the enhancement will affect your sentence.
As a first-time DUI offender, you risk facing up to six months in county jail or a fine between $1500 to $2000. The officer handling your case applies discretion to determine whether to issue the maximum sentencing or fine penalty. Moreover, they will also determine whether to order both penalties simultaneously, mainly if your case includes aggravated factors. These include causing accidents and severe injuries to third parties or causing injury to the minor in the vehicle. Extremely high BAC levels also aggravate factors, especially if they range within or above 0.15%.
On top of this, you are also subject to attending DUI school for three to nine months as a first-time offender. This often goes hand in hand with an order to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for up to six months to ensure you only drive sober.
Another alternative option for baseline DUI penalties is probation for three to five years. The punishment is an alternative to jail time and fine payments and is often a preferred option for many offenders. This is because you will retain your liberty, despite engaging in activities and services geared towards improving your behavior. Further, you will have to report to a probation officer who makes a report about your reform progress before the judge closes your case.
The Sentence Enhancements
After receiving the basic DUI penalties, you will also be subject to sentence enhancements for a DUI with a minor below fourteen in the vehicle. You should note that the presiding judge or DMV officer applies the enhancements according to the guidelines. Thus, you may have little wiggle room to negotiate leniency, provided the judge finds you guilty of the DUI offense. The following are the sentence enhancements issued depending on whether you are a first-time or repeat offender:
- Two additional days in county jail for a first-time offender
- Ten extra days in county jail for a second-time offender
- Thirty extra days in county jail for a third-time offender
- Ninety extra days in county jail for a fourth-time offender
Contact a Chula Vista Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Facing any criminal charge can attract serious repercussions, resulting in detention or paying expensive fines. Usually, the likelihood of facing DUI penalties depends on the strength of your case in dispelling the prosecutor’s argument. As a result, you want to partner with a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer. Their involvement in your case will help you face a smoother time preparing for the trial and increase your chances of a favorable outcome. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we aim to provide the best criminal defense services for any client facing DUI with a passenger under fourteen charges. Our role is to develop your case by sourcing evidence, preparing arguments, and representing you in court. Thanks to our years of practice in criminal law, you do not have to worry about substandard work. For more information on how to deal with a DUI charge, call us today at 619-877-6894.