Facing a DWI charge is never fun. When a person gets arrested for driving while intoxicated, there are a number of factors that can change the severity of the crime. For instance, penalties can get worse for a DWI if the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content is higher than 0.15. Another instance where the penalties for a DWI can be made into a crime with more severe penalties is when there is a child passenger in the vehicle.
Overview Of DWI With A Child Passenger Law In Texas
In the state of Texas, it is a higher level crime that will result in more jail time and larger fines if a child under the age of fifteen is in the car during the DWI arrest. According to Texas state law, a person can be charged with driving while intoxicated with child passenger “if 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.” (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.49.htm) In this instance, the offense is considered a state jail felony.
Normally, a DWI charge would be a misdemeanor charge as long as it was the first offense. But, Texas law ups the charge to a felony if a child is in the car with the drunk driver. The felony charge makes it harder to be taken off a person’s criminal record in the future. The state jail felony also comes with heftier penalties than any other DWI or DUI charge.
In 2016, 143 passengers were killed in vehicles driven by DWI drivers in Texas. Also in 2016, there were a total of 46 people under the age of eighteen that lost their lives in drunk driving accidents. The statistics show that the majority of drunk driving car accidents happen more often between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m. The most popular days of the week for DUI crashes in Texas are Saturdays and Sundays. (https://www.rightstep.com/resources/texas-addiction-information/texas-drunk-driving-statistics/)
Criminal Penalties For DWI With Child Passenger Charge In Texas
In Texas, if you are arrested for a DWI with a child passenger not only do the penalties get worse, the state can press more charges against you as well. In many cases, if someone is caught driving drunk with a minor in the car they can also be charged with child endangerment. The child endangerment charge will tack on more jail time and fines to the sentence if the person is convicted.
For first time offenders, getting caught driving drunk with someone under fifteen will get them an automatic 180-day driver’s license suspension as opposed to the 90-day suspension given for regular DWI charges. If convicted they could be forced to serve 180 days minimum to a 2-year maximum stint behind bars. The fines for the crime can amount up to $10,000.
In addition to driver’s license suspension, jail time, and fines, a person facing a DWI with child passenger conviction could be court ordered to be on probation for a set amount of time as well. During probation, the convicted criminal may be ordered to drug or alcohol treatment/counseling that includes periodic drug and alcohol testing. The court may also order extra specialized treatment or counseling for the child endangerment charges.
Potential Defenses And Your Rights
Although any DWI case is hard to defend, there are a few possible defenses that may work depending on the specific situation. The officer must be able to prove that there was probable cause in order to ask for a drug or alcohol test. One defense could be that the officer illegally asked you to submit to the testing because no probable cause was present. Another defense used in DWI cases is whether or not the breathalyzer machine was calibrated recently. The device the police use to test a person’s system for alcohol must be regularly calibrated so that the readings are accurate. In some cases, people have beat DWI charges because the breathalyzer read that they had a higher alcohol content than they actually had. Another defense to consider is whether the police officer had probable cause to pull the vehicle over in the first place.
Need A Lawyer In Austin, Texas?
In any DWI case, it is best to contact a lawyer to represent you immediately. Especially in the felony cases such as DWI with child passenger, a lawyer can get you the best outcome possible. A lawyer will first work to see if there are any defenses in your case that might work in a trial.
Having legal representation also makes the court process much easier for you. All in all, those facing charges that have legal representation throughout their case end up with less jail time and paying less fines even with a conviction.