How A DUI Affects Child Custody?

Last Modified: January 22, 2024

Learn about the affects of a DUI on child custody. Contact our top rated DUI attorneys for a risk free consultation.

How does a DUI Affect Child Custody?

Separated parents who can’t agree on child custody rules often try to discredit one another and will point to any DUI as proof of the inability to protect the child. Since the prime objective of the courts is to do what is best for the child, a DUI will weigh heavily on a judge’s decision.

It is important to consult with a Los Angeles Defense Attorney if you are a parent because several factors contribute to how much a DUI arrest affects child custody including recency, frequency, and whether a child was in the car during the DUI.

DUI arrest and child custody

A DUI without a child in the car is by itself an indication that the parent may not be responsible enough to care for his or her child. When there is a child in the car, the matter gets much worse.

DUI with a Minor (Child in the car)

California Vehicle Code 23572 is designed to protect minors by penalizing anyone who drives under the influence with a passenger aged 14 or under. These penalties are in addition to those given for the DUI.

If your child is in the car when you are arrested for DUI, the police can take the child into temporary custody and decide where to take the child for care, possibly placing the child with family members (including the other parent). If this is not possible, your child could end up with the California Department of Child and Family Services.

If you are the custodial parent, your current custody privileges will be in jeopardy. If you are a non-custodial parent, your chances of getting custody are very much diminished by a DUI.

DUI with a Minor (Sentence enhancement)

When there is a Minor involved in a DUI case, prosecutors often seek sentence enhancements in addition to the DUI charge, and these additional charges depend in part on the number of your prior DUIs:

  • For the 1st DUI, the additional time you may be faced with is 48 hours.
  • For the 2nd DUI, the additional time is 10 days
  • For the 3rd DUI, the additional time is 30 days
  • For the 4th DUI, the additional time is 90 days

Multiple DUIs, with the added penalties, will reflect a dependency factor that indicates to a judge that you are not capable of caring for your children in a normal, supportive environment.

Can you lose custody of your child with a 2nd DUI?

A second DUI in California has several penalty provisions that can affect your custodial responsibilities. They involve financial assessments of up to $4000 and possible jail time of up to 1 year. There is a 2-year suspension of license but after 90 days, you may qualify for restricted driving with a mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on your car. This would allow you to travel to work or school.

Will any of these factors keep you from caring for your child? If so, you should consult a Los Angeles Defense Attorney for assistance in Custody Court. Other factors may also influence your custody status – drug or alcohol dependencies, whether you were in a DUI accident, whether your child was in the car, and whether you can show maturity and responsibility in other ways. Any of this can have a critical bearing on whether you keep or lose custody. These factors can also affect your visiting rights, the time you get to spend with your child (if any), and whether you can transport your child in a vehicle.

Child endangerment (aggravating factors)

California law has another law that protects children, Penal Code Section 273(a) that states anyone driving under the influence with a minor passenger can be charged with child endangerment.

If the prosecution seeks child endangerment charges, it is critical that you have a Los Angeles Defense Attorney represent you because custody of your children is definitely at stake here. A conviction for misdemeanor child endangerment can lead to a jail sentence of up to 364 days. A felony conviction can lead to a state prison sentence of 2, 4, or 6 years.

Any charge of child endangerment will show that, not only do you not have the best interest of your child at heart, but you are actually a danger to that child. Child safety is the basis for custody decisions.

DUI probation and child custody

Probation can be a conditional penalty for DUI. Your child custody will depend on your behavior during that time, including your ability to remain free of drugs and alcohol. As a condition of probation, you can be asked to take a random alcohol or drug test. A Los Angeles Defense Attorney can alert you to what can happen during DUI probation.

When did the DUI occur?

In addition to frequency of DUI convictions, the timing is also important. If your DUI was 10 years ago, the courts will look at that differently than if it was last month. A DUI conviction more than 10 years ago is no longer counted as a prior conviction on your record.

Child custody and rehabilitation

An important factor in determining responsibility for the care of a minor after a DUI is what has happened since. Have you shown a determination to address your dependency on alcohol or drugs? Have you attended AA meetings or attended a drug rehabilitation center? Your actions to “get things right” will be viewed as a positive step toward maintaining or getting custody of your children.

Get in touch with Perlman & Cohen for a Free Consultation

Perlman & Cohen, experienced in all aspects of DUI and its effects on child custody, can help you prepare a proper defense that shows you are a responsible parent. Legal representation is your best strategy in keeping or acquiring custody of your child.

Contact Attorney Daniel Perlman or Matthew Cohen at Perlman & Cohen, (310) 557-1700.

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