Charges for driving while intoxicated (DWI) can leave you facing a variety of penalties if convicted, depending on the circumstances of your arrest. However, if you are arrested for DWI while you have your child in the vehicle with you, your situation instantly becomes much more serious, and you may also risk child endangerment charges. As a parent, it is crucial to understand the potential consequences of DWI with a child passenger and why it is so important to have an experienced attorney on your side.
Texas Penal Code Section 49.045 states that a person commits the offense of driving while intoxicated with a child passenger when “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.” This offense is a state jail felony in Texas.
What happens if I’m pulled over for DWI with my child in the car?
When you operate a vehicle with children inside, you are taking responsibility for their safety. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol puts that safety at risk and authorities take this very seriously. In most cases, if you are arrested for suspicion of DWI with a child passenger, authorities will attempt to reach out to the child’s other parent or guardian, or a trusted family member or friend to pick up the child.
In cases where this is not possible, the police may contact Child Protective Services (CPS) to take custody of the child to provide temporary placement. Further, because driving while intoxicated puts a child’s safety at risk, even if no accident or injuries occurred, authorities are required to report incidents of child endangerment to CPS. For parents involved in child custody disputes or other related matters, these reports can cause huge problems down the road.
What is child endangerment?
Child endangerment is spelled out in Texas Penal Code Section 22.041(c), where a person commits this offense if they “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engage in conduct that places a child younger than 15 years in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.”
You may face these charges on top of DWI charges – both child endangerment and DWI with a child passenger are state jail felonies.
What are the penalties for DWI with a child passenger?
If you are convicted of DWI with a child in your vehicle here in Texas, you may face a variety of penalties, many that could affect your life long after you have served your time and punishments. These state felony penalties include:
- Up to two years in state prison
- Fines up to $10,000
- Driver’s license suspension up to six months
- Driver’s license reinstatement fees
- Installation of ignition interlock device
- Mandatory alcohol or drug treatment program
Additionally, a conviction of child endangerment brings its own penalties, including a likely investigation from Child Protective Services and the possible loss of custody of your child. Other outcomes from a felony conviction can include:
- Loss of the right to own a firearm
- Loss of voting privileges
- Ineligibility for certain forms of government assistance
- Loss of employment and educational opportunities
- Loss of child visitation rights
- Forfeiture of civil assets
Working with experienced legal counsel can help secure a more favorable outcome. Remember, an arrest does not necessarily mean a conviction.
How can an attorney help with my DWI case?
If you are arrested for DWI with your child in the car, your attorney can mount several strategies in your defense, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. Potential defenses include:
- You were not legally intoxicated. The prosecution must show that your BAC was .08 percent or higher to prove you were intoxicated. However, depending on factors like when the test was performed, under what circumstances, and the reliability of the test, your attorney may be able to show that this evidence is not admissible in court.
- You were not operating your vehicle. Were you driving when police arrived at the scene or was your car parked with the ignition off? The state is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were behind the wheel and operating the car in an unsafe manner. An attorney can go over the details of your arrest and exactly what you were doing at the time.
- Your rights were violated. Police cannot pull you over without reasonable suspicion. If their report does not describe a specific traffic violation or reason for stopping your vehicle, your attorney may be able to suppress any evidence gathered after the initial stop.
A skilled DWI attorney can work for reduced charges, probation, plea deals, or negotiate to have the charges dropped altogether.
The Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm offers experienced and honest DWI defense services. If you were arrested for drunk driving with a child in the car, we can help. To set up a consultation, call us today at 254-680-4655 or visit our contact page. We proudly serve clients from our offices in Killeen and Copperas Cove.
I’ve dedicated my legal career to defending my clients. I demand all the evidence. I investigate all the facts, the so-called witnesses and even the police officers. I make it my business to know the law. Cases can be won or lost before you even set foot inside the courtroom.
Read more about Mary Beth Harrell