In the state of Texas, driving while intoxicated with alcohol is considered to be a significant criminal offense. Of course, there is a good reason for this. Driving while intoxicated is dangerous. Not only does it increase your chances of getting into a serious motor vehicle accident, but it can also put other individuals in potential danger. When you are in an intoxicated state, your reactions are slowed down, you become unfocused, and you become inattentive to your surroundings. In all types of circumstances, this makes for a hazardous situation. When it comes to DWI offenses in Texas, there may be certain circumstances that may increase the potential punishments. This includes a DWI with a child passenger. As its name implies, this describes a situation in which you were driving while intoxicated with a child also riding in the same vehicle. As one can imagine, this is a more serious DWI offense since the driver is putting the child at danger due to their impaired state.
If you have recently been charged with a DWI with a child passenger offense in the Fort Worth area, then you can receive legal assistance. Our team at Andrew Deegan DWI Attorney at Law is highly experienced and qualified in all matters related to DWI offenses. We specialize in this legal field and we know how to handle any type of DWI offense you may face. When it comes to facing this offense or any other possible type of DWI offense, you may feel helpless and unsure about what to do in order to fight the charge. Our attorneys are prepared to help you build a defense once they have reviewed your case. Once you have been charged with any type of DWI offense, it is crucial to find good help as soon as you possibly can to ensure greater success in the future.
What Does a DWI with a Child Passenger Offense Mean?
In Texas, a DWI is simply the act of operating a car, or any other type of vehicle, while intoxicated with alcohol, as defined by Texas Penal Code Section 49.04. In other words, this can be described as the act of drunk driving. This type of DWI offense is the most basic of the offenses, and it is also probably one of the most common that drivers may face. Once again, this is considered to be a serious offense no matter what the circumstances may be. This is because driving while intoxicated places not only yourself but the safety of others at risk of injury or even death along the roadways. Often, a standard DWI offense is considered to be a misdemeanor. However, there are certain circumstances in which it may be elevated to a felony offense.
If a child under the age of 15 years of age is present in the vehicle when you are driving while intoxicated, then you may be charged with a DWI with a child passenger as described by Texas Penal Code Section 49.045. The is an elevated form of a DWI offense that is determined by these circumstances. It is crucial to note that the child must be 15 years old or younger in order to be considered a ‘child’ in this context. The example below will describe just one type of situation in which you may be charged with this offense.
- Maria was drinking all day. In the afternoon, she went to pick up her 10-year-old daughter from school. After picking her up, Maria was pulled over after an officer noticed her swerving into other lanes. Her BAC is measured at 0.15 and she is immediately arrested and charged with a DWI with a child passenger.
With any type of DWI offense, you may not have a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 or greater as described under the Penal Codes. Usually, once you have been pulled over by a law enforcement officer while driving, your BAC level may be measured either by your breath, your urine, or your blood. If you are driving while intoxicated with a child present in the vehicle, you may be made to take a test to determine your BAC. Most of the time, this test and its results may be used in the court of law as a form of evidence.
With a DWI with a child passenger offense, there are a couple of crucial elements that must be present in order to be charged. These elements include:
- You were operating a vehicle of some type in a public place,
- You were driving while intoxicated (with BAC of 0.08 or greater), and
- There was a child 15 years of age or younger present in the vehicle.
When it comes to a DWI with a child passenger offense, it does not necessarily indicate that you have been in an accident of any kind. It is purely an offense that arises when an officer notices any negligently driving or any signs that you are possibly intoxicated at the wheel. Of course, if your intoxicated state has led to an accident of any kind, another charge may be added on top of the DWI or the DWI with a child passenger offense. Again, the more severe and potentially hazardous the circumstances of the DWI offense, the harsher the punishments and penalties could potentially be in the end—especially if there is a child present in the vehicle.
Below are the possible punishments and sentences that may be received if convicted of a DWI with a child passenger.
Punishments and Penalties for a DWI with a Child Passenger Offense
As with any other type of criminal offense in Texas, if you are convicted of the crime, then you will be given certain punishments to fit the crime. Due to the serious nature of a DWI with a child passenger offense, the possible punishments are quite harsh and can be long lasting depending on the circumstances of the incident.
For this offense, the punishments are outlined under Texas Penal Code Section 49.045. This is considered to be a state jail felony offense in Texas. With this standing, the possible punishments include a minimum of 180 days to a maximum two (2) years sentence in a state jail facility. Also, this includes a penalty fine of up to $10,000. Your driver’s license will also be suspended for 180 days.
Also, there are some circumstances that could potentially increase the punishments you face if convicted. These factors include any previous felony convictions, any previous DWI convictions, whether or not the child was injured in an accident, whether or not you have caused a serious bodily injury to another individual, or if anyone has been killed as a result of an accident. Not only would these factors lead to other related charges, but they may only cause for enhanced sentencings (increased jail time and more). Other factors such as injuries or deaths resulting from a collision may elevate the punishments and may lead to other, more serious offenses.
Once again, the possible punishments that may be received from a DWI with a child passenger, as outlined by the Texas Penal Codes, include:
- Between 180 days and two (2) years in a state jail facility,
- A fine of up to $10,000, and/or
- A driver’s license suspension of 180 days.
When it comes to this type of offense, the punishment can be severe, and they could greatly affect your life.
Lastly, if you have been charged with a DWI with a child passenger and the child was your kid, then the prosecutor will report the situation the Child Protective Services since this may be considered a form of child endangerment or abuse. On top of any punishments, your custodial rights may be affected by the crime. This can interfere with a shared custody agreement and with any visitation rights you may have with your spouse. Also, if there is no other family available to take your child, then Child Protective Services may have to take them into their own custody.
Similar and Related Offenses to a DWI with a Child Passenger Offense
Along with a DWI with a child passenger, there are some similar and related offenses that you may be charged with. The offense you are charged with will be determined by the details and elements in your incident. In cases, these offenses may be charged instead of or alongside a DWI with a child passenger offense.
If you are driving while intoxicated—no matter what the circumstances are—you can be charged with a basic DWI offense in Texas. As stated before, and described by Texas Penal Code Section 49.04, this offense may be charged if you are operating a vehicle while intoxicated and in a public space of some type. In some cases, if you have been charged with a DWI with a child passenger, but the passenger is not technically considered to be a child, then you may still face a regular DWI.
A regular DWI offense is only considered to be a class B misdemeanor in Texas. As such, you may receive a minimum of 72 hours in confinement. Also, you could possibly face up to 180 days in a state jail facility and may be made to pay a maximum fine of $2,000. Even though this may be seen as a lighter offense, it is still a serious crime. The punishments may also be increased depending on the circumstances of the crime.
In some situations, a DWI with a child passenger may also be considered a form of child endangerment which is also another type of criminal offense. As described by Texas Penal Code Section 22.041(c), child endangerment is described as intentionally, knowingly, or with reckless negligence, engaging in conduct that places a child 15 years of age or younger in imminent danger of death, serious bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment. A DWI with a child passenger can easily be connected with a child endangerment offense since driving while intoxicated may be seen as acting with reckless negligence and placing the child in potential danger on the roadways.
With a child endangerment, it may be charged regardless of whether or not you were actually intoxicated. You may still receive this charge if you were driving recklessly or placing the child in some sort of danger. This is a significant criminal offense, and the punishments are similar to that of a DWI with a child passenger. A child endangerment offense may be added on top of a DWI with a child passenger along with its punishments.
A child endangerment offense is considered to be a state jail felony in Texas. Due to this status, you could possibly face up to two (2) years in a state jail facility. Also, you may be made to pay a maximum fine of $10,000. Lastly, your driver’s license may be suspended for up to 180 days. As with any other type of criminal offense, certain circumstances and action may lead to elevated punishments and more.
DWI Intoxicated Assault / Intoxicated Manslaughter
When a driver is impaired due to intoxication, it is common for accidents to occur. Also, when accidents do happen on the road, it is common for individuals involved to sustain injuries, or even die, as a result. Of course, if a child is a passenger in your vehicle and you are intoxicated, they are at a significant risk of sustaining serious injuries or even death should you get into a car accident. If this does occur, then you may be charged with either a DWI intoxicated assault or a DWI intoxicated manslaughter.
As described by Texas Penal Code Section 49.07, a DWI intoxicated assault charge arises if you operate a vehicle recklessly and negligently while intoxicated, and it results in the serious bodily injury of another person. In this case, that other person may be a child passenger if they are present during a collision. The law describes a serious bodily injury as one that creates a major risk of death, causes permanent disfiguration, or any permanent loss or impairment of bodily organ/functions. Simply, if you have caused another person to be severely injured you may be charged with this offense. Intoxicated assault is a third-degree felony. The punishments include two (2) to ten (10) years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The crime and its punishments may even be elevated depending on some circumstance surrounding your case.
In cases in which an individual has died from an accident that results from you driving while intoxicated, then you may face a DWI intoxication manslaughter offense. As described by Texas Penal Code Section 49.08, you may be charged with this offense if you operate any vehicle while intoxication and it results in the death of another person. This may include the driver of another vehicle, a pedestrian, and any passenger in your vehicle—including a child. Obviously, this is a very serious crime. As a second-degree felony, the possible punishments are severe. If you are convicted, you could possibly face a sentence of two (2) to twenty (20) years in prison. Also, you may be made to pay a maximum fine of $10,000. Besides this, you must fulfill many hours of community service.
Possible Defenses to Fight Against a DWI with a Child Passenger Offense
With a criminal offense like a DWI with a child passenger, there are defenses that may be used in order to drop or reduced the charges. With assistance from a qualified criminal attorney, you may be able to build a defense to fight your charges. Usually, a successful defense is one that is able to disprove any necessary elements needed to be convicted of the offense. For a DWI with a child offense, these elements include you were operating the vehicle, you were intoxicated, and there was a child 15 years of age or younger in the vehicle as well.
The Passenger is Not Considered to Be a Child
One of the elements needed in a DWI with a child case is that a child needed to have been in the vehicle while you were intoxicated. In Texas, any person 15 years of age or younger is considered to be a child. So, if the passenger in your vehicle was older than this when you were driving while intoxicated, then you may not be charged with this offense. Of course, if you were still intoxicated, you may still be charged with a regular DWI no matter what the circumstances happened to be at the time of the crime. You may also face other similar charges depending on the situation.
You Were Not Actually Intoxicated
In some cases, you may be able to prove that you were not actually intoxicated while you were driving. Again, one of the crucial elements needed for a DWI with a child passenger is that you were intoxicated due to some substance such as alcohol. However, if you were not, then you may not be charged with this offense. However, you would need to show solid evidence in court to prove this as a fact—and this may be difficult without the proper help. One way you could do this would be by showing that the tests you were made to take in order to get your BAC level were faulty or inaccurate for some reason. It is not uncommon for BAC tests to be faulty as any type of equipment can malfunction at times. If this is the case, the officer may have received false and inaccurate results.
However, if reckless driving was what caught the attention of an officer, then you may still face criminal charges. If there was a child passenger present during the arrest, then you may still face child endangerment if your driving presented a real danger to the child or anyone else around. You may also be charged with reckless driving alongside this offense.
Locating an Experienced DWI Attorney Near Me
If you are currently facing a DWI with a child offense, or any other type of DWI type of offense, you should know that you can receive help with your situation. In Texas, these are considered to be serious crimes and they can lead to harsh punishments if you are convicted. You may face potential jail time and have to pay large fines. More than this, a conviction may even have a lasting impact on your life. Driving while intoxicated on alcohol can lead to potentially dangerous situations for any person within the vehicle or outside the vehicle. If a child is in the vehicle while you are driving while intoxicated, you are putting them at risk of serious injury, or even death. Since children are susceptible to serious injuries that could potentially impact the rest of their lives, a DWI with a child passenger is considered to be an even greater crime in Texas. Of course, with this offense, just driving under these conditions is enough to receive severe punishments.
Once you have been arrested and charged with this offense, you should get legal assistance immediately—especially if this is the first instance of legal trouble you have ever faced. At Andrew Deegan DWI Attorney at Law, we have a team of attorneys who specialize in this field of law and can help you with any type of DWI offense. We will always try to provide the best assistance and help you can find in the Fort Worth area. Being charged with any kind of criminal offense can be frightening and stressful for anyone. We know this, and we will always make an effort to make the whole legal process easier on you. If you need help today, contact our offices at 817-470-2128. Our staff will be there to take your call and to begin reviewing your legal case right away. We believe everyone has a right to be properly defended in the court, and we aim to help anyone who needs it.