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Are Texas DWI Charges More Serious if a Child Was a Passenger?

 Posted on July 14, 2023 in Criminal Defense

Experienced Dallas DWI Defense Attorney Drunk driving can be very dangerous, and when drivers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they are more likely to cause accidents that may result in serious injuries and extensive property damage. Because of these dangers, the laws prohibiting intoxicated driving are strictly enforced. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense in Texas, with severe consequences for those who are convicted. However, if a child is present as a passenger in a vehicle operated by an intoxicated driver, the charges and penalties can become even more severe. People who have been arrested for drunk driving will need to understand the legal implications of Texas DWI charges involving a child passenger.

Child Endangerment Laws in Texas

Texas has specific laws in place to protect children from being exposed to dangerous situations, including cases where a child is in a vehicle operated by an intoxicated driver. According to Texas Penal Code Section 49.045, a person can be charged with the offense of Driving While Intoxicated With Child Passenger if they were operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance, and there was a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

It is important to note that the child passenger does not have to be related to the driver for this charge to apply. Any child under the age of 15, regardless of whether they are the child of the driver, another family member, or a neighbor, triggers the enhanced charge.

Enhanced Penalties for DWI with Child Passenger

The offense of DWI With Child Passenger is a state jail felony, and the penalties are significantly harsher compared to other first-time DWI charges. The enhanced penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $10,000

  • Jail time of up to two years, with a minimum sentence of 180 days

  • Driver's license suspension for up to two years

  • Completion of a mandatory DWI education program

A driver who had previously been convicted of DWI will face harsher penalties. Any second DWI offense will require a driver to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicles they drive, and this requirement will remain in place for one year after their license is reinstated. A person who had two previous DWI convictions may be charged with a third degree felony for an offense of DWI With Child Passenger, and they may be sentenced to a minimum of two years and a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Any conviction of the offense of DWI With Child Passenger will result in a permanent mark on the driver's criminal record, which can have long-term consequences on their personal and professional life. In some cases, a criminal history that includes a DWI charge may affect child custody disputes or employment opportunities.

Defense Strategies for DWI With Child Passenger

If you have been charged with DWI With Child Passenger in Texas, it is crucial to seek the assistance of an experienced DWI defense attorney immediately. Your attorney will evaluate the circumstances of your case and develop appropriate defense strategies to challenge the charges. Possible defense strategies may include:

  • Challenging the legality of the traffic stop or arrest

  • Questioning the accuracy of field sobriety tests or breathalyzer results

  • Presenting evidence of a medical condition that may have caused intoxication-like symptoms

  • Arguing against the child endangerment element of the charge

Contact an Experienced Dallas DWI Defense Attorney Today

If you are facing DWI charges involving a child passenger or other circumstances, it is important to consult with an experienced Plano DWI defense lawyer. At The Crowder Law Firm, P.C., we can guide you through the legal process, protect your rights, and work toward the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today at 214-544-0061 to schedule a free consultation. We are prepared to fight tirelessly on your behalf and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

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