DWI with a Passenger Under 15 in Texas

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense in Texas. Many people are not aware that a DWI can be charged as a felony when a child less than 15 years of age is in the vehicle at the time of an alleged DWI stop.

A DWI with a child passenger conviction is far more consequential than a traditional DWI. Individuals facing these charges risk the possibility of their actions being considered child endangerment and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services possibly initiating actions to remove the child from their custody.

Were you recently arrested for DWI with a passenger who was less than 15 years of age in the Dallas area? Hire legal counsel immediately for help defending yourself both against your DWI charges and any child abuse charges that have been levied against you.

The Law Offices of RJ Harber has been handling all kinds of DWI cases for clients throughout Texas for more than a decade. We have extensive experience helping people who have been charged with DWI with a child passenger, and we are ready to put our skills and experience to work on your case. Call us at (214) 389-1189 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable and understanding member of our team today.

What are the laws regarding DWIs with a child in the car?

The crime of driving while intoxicated with a child passenger is established under Texas Penal Code § 49.045. A person commits this crime if they:

  • Are intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place; and
  • A passenger who is younger than 15 years of age occupies the vehicle being operated by the alleged offender.

Texas Penal Code § 49.01(2) provides two definitions for intoxication. One definition is having impaired mental or physical abilities as a result of alcohol, drug, or other substance use. The other is simply having a breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more.

The latter definition based on a person’s BAC level is frequently referred to as a “per se” DWI offense, because the evidence of the BAC level alone is evidence of intoxication, regardless of the other symptoms observed by a police officer. An officer can still arrest an alleged offender exhibiting symptoms of impairment even when their BAC is less than 0.08, but it will be more difficult for the prosecutor to prove that person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, as is required in criminal cases.

Texas Penal Code § 49.01(1) defines an alcohol concentration as being the number of grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath, 100 milliliters of blood, or 67 milliliters of urine. Breath tests are the most commonly utilized BAC tests in most DWI cases in Texas, and alleged offenders may submit to one roadside test as well as a test conducted at a police station.

Blood tests are usually ordered only in cases in which an alleged offender is unable to provide a breath sample or has been involved in a motor vehicle accident that has caused death or serious bodily injury. Urine tests are rarely used for alcohol testing purposes, but may be employed if an alleged offender is suspected of being under the influence of a controlled substance.

What are the penalties for DWI with a child in the car?

DWI with a child passenger is a state jail felony in Texas. A conviction can result in a sentence of up to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Another consequence of a DWI with a child passenger conviction is that a person will have their driver’s license suspended. A DWI with a child passenger conviction is usually punishable by a suspension of up to 180 days, and a person only has 15 days after their arrest to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing to contest a possible suspension.

Like many states, Texas has an implied consent law that effectively establishes that all drivers are deemed to have consented to submitting to tests of their BACs simply by being licensed to drive in Texas. People still have the right to refuse to submit to testing, but these actions will result in immediate administrative penalties that can include a license suspension of up to two years.

Certain alleged offenders may also be required to install ignition interlock devices (also sometimes referred to as IIDs or deep lung devices) on their vehicles and maintain them for a certain period before becoming eligible for any occupational driver’s licenses. Other possible punishments can include up to 1,000 hours of community service, completion of drug and/or alcohol treatment, and attending a Victim Impact Panel.

Defending You Against Charges

People facing DWI with child passenger charges are understandably concerned about the prosecutorial wrath they will face in court, but many people do have defense options in these cases. One of the most critical factors in all DWI cases concerns the reasons for the arresting officer’s original traffic stop, as an unlawful stop leads to the entire case being dismissed.

Some people may be charged with this crime when passengers were actually 15 years of age or older. In other cases, there could be significant issues with the testing that was used on the alleged offender.

For example, the police officer may have used field sobriety tests that are not considered standardized in evaluating impairment. Breath tests or other chemical tests may have been conducted using equipment that was not properly maintained.

In some cases, a police officer’s written observations about an alleged offender’s intoxication may be disproven by video evidence of the traffic stop. Numerous other procedural errors by police officers can also impact criminal charges.

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

If you were arrested for DWI with child passenger in Dallas or a surrounding area, you need to remember that criminal charges to not automatically mean that you will be convicted. Make sure that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for your freedom, livelihood, and rights to see your children. Don’t let an accusation ruin your life. You can fight back, and you could win.

The Law Offices of RJ Harber has handled various kinds of DWI cases in Dallas County and Tarrant County. You can have our lawyer provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call (214) 389-1189 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.