Anyone who risks driving while intoxicated (DWI) should be aware that there may be significant legal consequences. A conviction of a Texas DWI with a child in the car, however, can carry much more severe penalties than the typical DWI. If you or a loved one was charged with driving while intoxicated with a child in the car, consider contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney at Jason S. English Law, PLLC, by calling (512) 454-7548 to discuss your case and review your options.
What Is a DWI in Texas?
A driver is legally considered intoxicated when his or her blood alcohol concentration reaches 0.08. However, the risks of injury or of breaking the law increase as soon as drugs or alcohol affect a person's driving ability and that person gets behind the wheel. A Texas DWI is generally a class B misdemeanor. If a driver's alcohol concentration, measured with a blood, urine, or breath test, is 0.15 or higher, the charge can be upgraded to a class A misdemeanor.
While the law only specifies a number for alcohol levels, a driver can also be charged with a DWI for drug use. There are no specific numbers given for drug use because this can vary depending on the drug. Whether the drug is marijuana, cocaine, or a legally prescribed medication for the driver, getting behind the wheel while experiencing the effects of the drug can result in a DWI.
Penalties for DWI in Texas
The penalties for a DWI often depend on the number of previous offenses on the driver's record. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, DWI penalties include the following:
- First Offense: maximum $2,000 fine, up to 180 days (approximately six months) in jail with a mandatory three days, driver's license suspension for one year, and additional state fine of $3,000
- Second Offense: maximum $4,000 fine, one month to one year in jail, driver's license suspension for two years, and additional state fine of $4,500
Third Offense: $10,000 fine, prison sentence from two to 10 years, driver's license suspension for two years, and additional state fine of $6,000
What Happens if You Get a DWI with a Child in the Car in Texas?
According to the Texas Penal Code, a Texas DWI with a child in the car is called a DWI with Child Passenger. This charge applies when an intoxicated person operates a motor vehicle with any minor passengers under age 15 in a public place. The penalties for driving while intoxicated when a child is in the car, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, can include the following:
- An additional charge of child endangerment
- An additional fine of up to $10,000
- Up to two years in jail
- An additional 180 days without a driver's license
Loss of Rights
A DWI with Child Passenger is a felony charge, not a misdemeanor. If convicted, the driver will also lose his or her rights to vote, bear and keep arms, serve on a jury, or receive certain types of public assistance. If the driver's job requires or includes using a firearm, such as police or military, a felony DWI may also mean the loss of a job. A knowledgeable attorney from Jason S. English Law, PLLC, after reviewing the evidence, may be able to help build a defense against the charges.
In addition to the penalties listed above, the driver could lose custody of his or her child. When a driver is being charged with DWI, law enforcement will often attempt to contact the child's other parent, a grandparent, or other relative who can come to get the child. If the officers cannot locate a family member, they are required to call Child Protective Services (CPS), who will temporarily place the child until either a relative can be found or the outcome of the DWI case is decided. CPS may also investigate the parent for other indications of child abuse or neglect. If the driver shares custody with a former spouse, a DWI with Child Passenger conviction may result in the child's other parent seeking new custody order.
What Constitutes Child Endangerment in Texas?
Texas law defines child endangerment as a child under the age of 15 who put at risk intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence—by act or omission—of injury, impairment, or death. By this definition, a DWI places a child in danger of injury, impairment, or death, so a DWI alone could be considered child endangerment. If a driver is involved in a DWI accident with a child in the car, even without injury, a stronger case is made for child endangerment. If the child is injured or killed in a DWI accident, then there is an even stronger case for a child endangerment charge.
Can You Go to Jail for DWI Child Endangerment in Texas?
DWI and child endangerment are two separate charges. A driver can be charged with one or both. Both charges have the potential for jail time, which means that the driver can be sentenced to jail for one or both charges. The amount of time in jail depends on many factors, including:
- Previous felony convictions in general
- Previous DWI convictions
- Whether the child passenger was injured in a crash
- Whether the driver caused serious bodily injury to passengers, including those in another vehicle
- Whether a passenger or pedestrian was killed
If a child passenger is injured, Texas law indicates that the driver can also face additional charges of intoxication assault with serious bodily injury. Previous felony convictions may also subject a driver to enhancements as a habitual criminal offender during sentencing.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney for Your DWI with Child Passenger Charge Today
Being charged with a Texas DWI with a child in the car can be a traumatic experience. If the driver is the child's parent, he or she will be dealing not only with a criminal case but also with a potentially renewed or new custody battle or CPS case. The long-reaching consequences of being convicted of a DWI with Child Passenger can be difficult to overcome. If you or a loved one was charged with a DWI with a child passenger, consider contacting an experienced attorney from Jason S. English Law, PLLC, by calling (512) 454-7548 to schedule a consultation today.