Legal Guide

What Is the Penalty for DWI With a Child Passenger in Texas?

You’d better make sure you tie up all your loose ends before you drive while intoxicated with a child passenger in the Lone Star State, because you’re going to jail. In Texas, DWI with a child passenger is a state jail felony. That means it’s the most severe type of criminal offense, and you could face steep fines, the loss of your license, and 180 days to two years in jail.

Driving while intoxicated is always going to entail some potentially serious criminal penalties. When you get behind the wheel while you’re intoxicated you are putting your own life and the lives of others on the line. Willingly putting a child’s life in danger is something Texas will not tolerate.

If you have a child with you when you are caught driving while intoxicated (DWI), you should expect a less sympathetic judge, higher penalties, and possibly even an additional criminal charge. The exact penalties you may be facing if you’ve been charged will depend on the specifics of your case.

DWI Laws in Texas

When it comes to drinking and driving, as the saying goes, don’t mess with Texas. Laws around alcohol and driving can vary significantly from state to state. Texas DWI laws apply not only to alcohol but to all substances and combinations of substances that can affect your ability to operate a vehicle. Here are some of the reasons you may be charged:

  • You can be charged and convicted with a DWI if a police officer can show that you were either physically or mentally impaired by a substance in a way that affects your driving.
  • You’re also eligible for a DWI charge if you were operating a vehicle in any way while the alcohol concentration in your blood was at or above the legal limit of 0.08.

Even if you feel like your driving is fine and you’re just driving a short distance, it’s not worth the risk. It may have only been a couple of glasses of wine, and you may be able to make it home just fine. That won’t matter to the police, the judge, or the jury. Click here for more info about scenarios that put you at risk of being charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI)  in Dallas.

Increasing DWI Penalties

If you are about to go to court, you will be able to fight your case and defend yourself. However, Texas law sets a wide range of criminal penalties for DWIs that will change depending on the circumstances.

Your First DWI Arrest

A conviction for a first time DWI is a class B misdemeanor that can include a fine of up to $2,000 and between 3 and 180 days in county jail. Your license will also be suspended for 90 days to a year.

Second or Subsequent DWI Arrests

DWI punishments then increase gradually with different enhancements. If you have an open container in the car or your blood alcohol level is as high as 0.15, you’ll face some increased consequences. Then a second or third DWI brings greater fines and penalties, with a third DWI being a third-degree felony.

Child Endangerment DWI

A first-time DWI is generally not going to be a felony or include more than a short stint in a local jail unless there are severe additional offenses. If you have a child with you in the car or your DWI resulted in an accident causing death or a serious physical injury, you will be facing a felony charge.

A higher penalty will be imposed on you if you had a child passenger at the time of your arrest because you showed poor judgment and a lack of responsibility. While in some states you will be charged separately with child endangerment in addition to the DWI, many states automatically include a child endangerment penalty in the DWI charge. 

A criminal charge of DWI with a child passenger in Texas means that you had a passenger who was younger than 15. This is a state jail felony, which means it’s the lowest level of felony you can be charged with.

You could face a fine up to $10,000 and the guidelines suggest a punishment of up to two years in state jail. Your license will still be suspended for at least 90 days and possibly for as long as two years.

The Consequences of a Felony

The immediate consequences of a DWI with a child passenger can be incredibly disruptive to your life and your family. Six months in jail means six months without being able to work or care for your family.

Even after you’re released, you still may not be able to drive. The longest-lasting effect of your conviction, however, will be the felony that will be on your record for the rest of your life.

If you have a felony on your record, you’ll face a lifetime of having to constantly redeem yourself and show that you’re not defined by your conviction. You may be judged every time you apply for a job or seek new housing. You’ll lose the right to own a gun, to serve on juries, and possibly even to run for office or vote.

Fighting the Felony and Coping with the Conviction

The good news is, if you’ve been charged, you don’t have to give up and accept this conviction. There are many ways you may be able to defend yourself in court to have your charges dropped or at least reduced.

Depending on your situation, you might be able to have your charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor in exchange for pleading guilty. You should consult with an experienced attorney to see what options there are in your case. Some options that may be available to you include:

  • If the case was dismissed, you might be able to have the charge expunged from your record.
  • If the DWI was not too severe, you might qualify later on to have the conviction sealed so it doesn’t appear on your record for background checks.

Whatever happens, moving forward with your life is going to require integrity and determination. You’re going to have to work hard if you want to prove yourself and be the provider and protector your family needs.

Making a change in your life and being proactive about avoiding drinking while driving will help you before the judge and at home as well. Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is how you handle the situation afterward.

If you’ve been charged, you will get through this. If it hasn’t happened yet, next time you drink, and especially if you’ve got a kid with you, take advantage of your ride-share app.

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