California man arrested after police pull over 11-year-old ‘designated driver’

PORT HUENEME, Calif. -- A 29-year-old man was arrested in California after a patrol officer pulled over his 11-year-old nephew who was allegedly serving as his designated driver on Sunday, according to KTLA.

The officer first spotted the vehicle midafternoon Sunday at a heavily traveled intersection and noticed a child behind the wheel of a vehicle making a right-hand turn, according to the Port Hueneme Police Department.

“The kid obviously did not know how to drive a car. He was making traffic violations, weaving, the speed was erratic," Port Hueneme police Sgt. Christopher Graham said.

After observing multiple violations, the officer pulled the vehicle over; the car was partially off the road when it yielded, police said.

Meanwhile, as the officer conducted the traffic stop, the dispatch center received multiple calls from motorists and witnesses that a child was driving with a man slumped in the vehicle's front passenger seat.

Police discovered the driver was 11 years old, and that his uncle -- allegedly intoxicated at the time -- was in the passenger seat. He had apparently been seated on a sweatshirt to help him drive, authorities noted.

“The uncle -- someone had to have propped up some clothing for him, which allowed him to reach the pedals and also see over the steering wheel," Graham said.

When asked why he was behind the wheel, the boy initially told the officer that his uncle was teaching him to drive, but he later told police that his uncle "was too drunk to drive," police said.

The suspect, identified as Oxnard resident Genoro Lopez, is accused of having an open container of alcohol -- Graham described it as a container of beer -- in his lap and showing signs of intoxication, police said.

After asking the man to get out of the car, police also found what appeared to be a firearm located between his seat and the door, according to police.

At that point, Lopez was placed in handcuffs. Investigators later determined the firearm to be an imitation.

Authorities also conducted a records check and discovered a misdemeanor warrant out on Lopez for being an unlicensed driver, police said.

He later allegedly admitted to investigators that the boy was driving because he was trying to avoid a drunken driving arrest.

A criminal history check revealed he had a previous DUI arrest in May, authorities said.

“It’s just crazy that he put his nephew and the public in danger, just cause he didn’t want to go to jail," Graham said.

Lopez is also accused of using methamphetamine several hours earlier, while the nephew was in his care, police said.

The suspect was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment, having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle and the outstanding warrant, police said.

He was booked at the Ventura County Main Jail and was being held on $50,000 bail.

The child was released to his mother.

"Don’t drive your car," Graham said. "If you know you’re that intoxicated, get someone to come and get you, call Uber.”