Reckless Endangerment in California: Enhanced Sentencing for a DUI

In the common law, reckless endangerment (also known as criminal endangerment) is a crime consisting of acts that create a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. In essence, it is a crime that covers a wide range of behavior, although the term has mainly come up in the context of a DUI.

In the state of California however, the crime of “reckless endangerment” comes up in the context of committing a DUI when there is a child under the age of 14 in the car with you. Specifically, this crime qualifies you for a sentencing enhancement. Vehicle Code 23572, which addresses DUIs with children present, imposes a punishment of:

  • 48 hours in a county jail for a first DUI conviction;
  • 10 days in jail for a second DUI conviction;
  • 30 days in jail for a third DUI conviction; or
  • 90 days in jail for a fourth or subsequent misdemeanor DUI conviction

In addition to your underlying California DUI sentence, a charge under Vehicle Code 23572 imposes an additional maximum 180 days in jail.

Watch Out for Child Endangerment Charges

In addition to a DUI charge, you may also face another additional charge of “child endangerment” under California Penal Code 273a. Child endangerment is not merely a family law issue; it is a crime. Unlike the crime of child abuse, this charge does not require you actually injure a child—only that you exposed the child to risk of injury. Child endangerment is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail. If convicted of felony child endangerment, you face up to 6 years in California State prison.

It is important to note however, that if you are convicted of both a DUI, and child endangerment under PC 273a, the court is prohibited from imposing the additional sentencing enhancement under Vehicle Code 23572.

Criminal Negligence

California defines criminal negligence as a mental state of disregarding known or obvious risks to human life and safety. An example would be leaving a loaded firearm within reach of a small child. This is a different and separate charge from child endangerment, but a charge of criminal negligence may substitute for criminal intent under very specific circumstances. When this happens, it can subject you to more serious charges such as child endangerment or manslaughter even if your actions were unintentional.

San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases, DUIs, and enhanced sentencing cases. We are dedicated to protecting your constitutional rights and freedom, and have successfully represented many defendants, including those with child endangerment and criminal negligence charges. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a consultation on your case.