Getting a DWI in Texas can be stressful. Depending on the severity of the crime, you might be facing a significant fine or even jail time. But if you are arrested for a DWI and you have a child or underage passenger in the car with you at the same time, the penalties you face are even more severe.
DWI with Child Passenger in Texas
The Texas Penal Code defines the offense driving while intoxicated with a child passenger in the following manner:
“A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place, and the vehicle being operated by the person is occupied by a passenger who is younger than 15 years of age.” TPC Sec. 49.045. Note that the statute limits the underage provision to 15, rather than the typical age of minority, which is under the age of 18. The provisions relating to driving while intoxicated also apply to this offense. So, if the driver has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of at least .08 due to the consumption of alcohol, they will be considered ‘intoxicated’ for purposes of this statute.
What is the penalty for DWI with a child passenger?
Aside from the collateral consequences which are discussed in more detail below, individuals convicted of this offense will have a state jail felony on their record. Penalties for these kinds of offenses include a fine of up to $10,000.00, and jail time – anywhere from 180 days to a maximum of 2 years. The convicted person’s driver’s license could also be suspended for up to 180 days. They will likely need to pay a ‘surcharge fee’ between $1,000.00 and $2,000.00 for three years after if they wish to retain their driver’s license. These penalties can apply to anyone, even if this is their first criminal offense.
Of course, the penalties will most likely get more severe if there are prior convictions or additional aggravating factors. If the driver has prior felony convictions – whether a DWI or not – this will result in a more stringent penalty. If any injuries or accidents resulted from the driver’s conduct, this is another consideration the court will make when handing down sentences.
If you do not have any criminal record, and you were not severely intoxicated, then probation might be a possibility for anyone facing a DWI with child passenger offense. This probably will include strict terms of probation, like requiring you to install an ignition interlock device, and completing an alcohol education course.
If you want to avoid jail time, then your best option is to hire a criminal defense attorney with great experience handling DWI cases. A veteran defense attorney will be able to show the court why you deserve a lesser sentence and advocate for your best interests.
Potential Repercussions of a conviction for DWI with a child passenger in Texas
In addition to probation, possible jail time, and significant fines, if you are arrested for a DWI with a child passenger in Texas, there are multiple collateral consequences that can come about as a result. First, you might also be charged with child endangerment. Under Texas Penal Code Section 22.041(c), someone is guilty of child endangerment if they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence, by act or omissions, engages in conduct which places a child under 15 years of age in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment. Additionally, if law enforcement or the prosecutor believes that the child was endangered during this incident, they are required by law to report this to Child Protective Services (CPS).
CPS Involvement and Risk of Losing Custody
If CPS gets involved with your family, the repercussions can be long-term and serious. First, if you get arrested for the DWI with child passenger, and no other family members can be found to take the children, then CPS will assume custody of the kids immediately. If you and your spouse are divorcing (or are about to), this kind of charge will negatively impact your child custody case. Even if you are not ever convicted, just being arrested and charged for such conduct is an impairment to your custody matter. Remember – the law does not distinguish between whether or not the child was your own. So, even if you are arrested and someone else’s child is in the car with you, these collateral consequences could still exist.
Loss of License
If you refuse to take a breath or blood test when you are stopped, then you could face the possibility of losing your license. The state will send you notice of suspension of your license in response. You have 15 days from the date of receipt of this notice to request a hearing and allow the court to determine whether or not your license should get suspended. If you do not request a hearing, then you waive your right to object to the suspension. Your license will then be automatically suspended. Obviously, if you depend on the ability to drive for your work, then the suspension of your license could be debilitating to your livelihood.
General Effects of a Criminal Conviction
In addition to the specific collateral consequences of being convicted of a DWI with a child passenger in Texas, you could face general effects as a convicted felon. You lose certain constitutional rights as a result, including the right to vote, the right to bear arms, and the ability to serve on a jury. The loss of these rights could have a significant impact on someone’s career, too. Therefore, if the person loses their right to bear arms, and they are in the military or in law enforcement, they will no longer be able to perform their job functions and might lose their career. Additionally, many professionals have industry or ethical standards, violations of which could impact the convicted person’s career. For example, Texas lawyers are often subject to compulsory discipline in the event they are convicted of a serious or intentional crime
If you are facing charges for DWI with a child passenger in Texas, you should speak with an experienced, Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact Houston DWI defense lawyer Paul Schiffer today to arrange for a free and private case review at 713-521-0059.