Texas takes the welfare of its children seriously, especially for DWI with a child in the car. There’s nothing acceptable about driving drunk with a child in the car, and for good reason. That said, the standards for determining DWI are flawed—with or without children involved—and perfectly good parents can find themselves in trouble for something they didn’t actually do!
Whether you’re guilty or innocent, it’s important to know the facts behind the charge of a DWI with a child in the car in Texas, and fight to protect your rights.
What is the prevalence of ‘DWI Charges with a Child in the Car’?
47 US states have charges specifically for a DWI with a child in the car. Texas is just one of 42 states that have enhanced penalties for a DWI with a child passenger. Our great state passed its enhanced charges for a DWI with a child in the car, in Texas, in 2003.
What is the definition of a ‘Child Passenger’ for DWI in Texas?
You may be wondering: what’s the age limit to be considered a child in the car for a Texas DWI? Confusion around the definition of a child’s age for DWI is understandable. With more than 40 states having child passenger DWI laws, there are bound to be differences from state to state.
For example, some states such as neighboring Louisiana, set the age of a child passenger for DWI at 12 years of age. However, according to the state of Texas, anyone under the age of 15 years old is considered a child passenger.
Penalties for DWI with a Child Passenger in Texas
The arrest for a DWI is downright scary— having to take a field sobriety test in Texas and deciding on the shoulder between a blood test or breathalyzer. Not to mention the punishments for a DWI in Texas are already severe, but things only get worse when a child is present in the vehicle at the time of the incident. A DWI with a child in the car in Texas carries its own charge, and, you guessed it, the punishments are way more severe and long-lasting. A first offense DWI, without a child in the car, is typically a Class B misdemeanor. For a DWI with a child in the car, your DWI automatically becomes a state jail felony.
Here is the full lineup of DWI penalties you could face with a child in the car:
- A state jail felony sentence of at least 180 days, but no more than 2 years.
- Up to 180-day suspension of your driver’s license, automatically. (Read more about DWI License Suspension.)
- Up to $10,000 in fines.
- Surcharge fees each year to retain your driver’s license: at least $1,000 per year, but not exceeding $2,000, for three years.
It’s important to note that these penalties will become much more severe with further convictions, or if there was child endangerment is considered in your case.
DWI with a Child Passenger, Child Endangerment and CPS
Hopefully, it’s clear that a DWI with a child in the car is the always the wrong move. If the penalties mentioned above aren’t enough to convince you, there’s something else you should be aware of: a Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) case can remove your children from your custody.
The Texas Penal Code considers child endangerment a situation where a child under 15 years of age faces injury, physical impairment or death. Furthermore, the Texas Family code requires professionals to report suspected child neglect.
It’s likely that as a prosecutor prepares a criminal case against you meanwhile the state of Texas prepares a case to suspend your license, CPS may then receive a report of abuse or neglect from the prosecutor. This could result in the removal of your child from your custody.
While felony DWI charges carry many consequences, a DWI with a child in the car in Texas could affect your Texas joint custody agreement, custody holiday schedules and more. An important note: a CPS case is separate from your criminal charges and the case against your license. You should consult an experienced Texas family lawyer like Taly Thiessen, for your best defense.
Let Thiessen Law Firm Steer You to Freedom
A DWI with a child in the car for Texas is serious business. We also understand that difficult times calls for tough decisions to be made, and with that, unjust charges happen! If you or someone you know is facing a DWI with a child in the car, call Houston DWI Attorney Mark Thiessen 24/7 at 713-864-9000.
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