A child who is a passenger in a vehicle relies completely on the driver to operate the vehicle safely. Yet sometimes a person drives a vehicle while intoxicated. When a drunk driver transports a child passenger, it is felony DWI in Texas and the law provides for enhanced DWI penalties.
In Texas, Driving while intoxicated (DWI), also known as driving under the influence (DUI) or drunk driving, is most often a criminal misdemeanor that may result in severe penalties. But under Chapter 49.045 of the Texas Penal Code, DWI with a child passenger under the age of 15 is upgraded to a state jail felony, with much harsher penalties and fines than a misdemeanor charge, as well as the possibility of other adverse consequences.
A charge of DWI with a child passenger may also lead to an investigation into the child’s welfare by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, with the possible loss of custody due to child endangerment. Convicted felons in Texas also lose certain rights, such as the right to vote or own a gun, and face roadblocks to certain educational and employment opportunities.
DWI with Child Passenger Defense Lawyer in Denton, Frisco, Lewisville, Flower Mound, TX
A DWI charge alone is a serious matter, but a charge of DWI with child passenger adds to the legal issues and the potential expense of a DWI incident. If you are charged with DWI with child passenger anywhere in Denton County, Texas, you should contact a local DWI defense attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your freedom and your driving privileges.
The DWI attorneys at Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy are experienced in defending drivers who face a charge of DWI with child passenger. Our dedicated attorneys will be able to explain your criminal charges and then work hard to defend those charges, using our extensive resources and our knowledge of criminal procedure. In addition, we will fight to retain your driving privileges.
Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy represents DUI clients throughout Denton County, including the cities of Denton, Lewisville, The Colony, Little Elm, Flower Mound and many nearby communities throughout the North Dallas metropolitan area. Contact us today at (940) 222-8004 so we can review your case and explain your options during a free, confidential consultation with one of our skilled DUI attorneys.
DWI with Child Passenger in Denton, Texas
Under the Texas Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 49, § 49.04, a person is guilty of DWI in Texas if he or she operates a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated.
The police may use chemical tests, such as breath tests, blood tests or urine tests to determine a driver’s alcohol concentration (also known as blood-alcohol content, or BAC).
A person may refuse a DUI test, but under Texas’ “implied consent” law, refusal results in a driver’s license suspension of from 180 days to two years. A suspension may be appealed through the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) process, but a hearing must be requested within 15 days of the arrest.
Under the Texas Penal Code § 49.045, a person commits the offense of 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
While a “regular” DWI is considered a misdemeanor, § 49.045 states that DWI with a child passenger is a “state jail felony.”
Definitions of Terms Related to DWI with Child Passenger in Texas
Some of the terms related to the offense of DWI with Child Passenger are defined in the Texas statutes, including motor vehicle, intoxicated and alcohol concentration.
Texas defines a “motor vehicle” as something a person may use for transportation or something property may be transported in or on, except for devices that are used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks, such as railroads or metro rails.
“Intoxicated” is defined as:
- Not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or
- Having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more
Under Texas P.C. § 49.01(1), “alcohol concentration” means the number of grams of alcohol per:
- 210 liters of breath
- 100 milliliters of blood, or
- 67 milliliters of urine
Elements of Guilt in DWI with Child Passenger Cases
In order for a Texas judge a jury to convict a person of DWI with a Child Passenger, they must find that a person, beyond any reasonable doubt:
- Operated a motor vehicle on or about a certain date in a specific county; and either
- Did not have the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body while operating a motor vehicle on or about a certain date in a specific county; or
- Had a BAC of 0.08 or higher while operating a motor vehicle on or about a certain date in a specific county; and
- Did so while a child younger than the age of 15 was a passenger in the motor vehicle on or about a certain date in a specific county
Penalties for DWI with Child Passenger
The Texas Penal Code, Title 3, Chapter 12.35 defines the statutory penalties for the offense of DWI with child passenger, which is a state jail felony. According to the statute, a person charged with this offense may face a minimum mandatory jail sentence of 180 days, with a maximum sentence of up to two years, as well as a fine of up to $10,000, or both imprisonment and a fine.
Some of the additional penalties for a conviction of DWI with child passenger may include any of the following:
- Loss of driving privileges or restricted driving privileges, if granted (a Texas DWI automatically triggers a driver’s license suspension unless an administrative hearing is requested within 15 days of the arrest)
- Probation or community supervision
- DWI school
- Completion of an approved alcohol or drug education course
- Requirement to attend an approved alcohol or drug education program
- Community service (up to 1,000 hours for a felony offense)
- Installation of an ignition interlock device, which prevents a vehicle from starting until the operator’s BAC is verified
- Court costs
- Any additional fees required by the court
- Expensive annual DWI “surcharges” imposed by the Texas Department of Safety (DPS) for three years
These penalties may increase depending on an offender’s BAC and previous DWI record. Convicted felons also face many obstacles upon release from prison, including the loss of the right to vote or own a gun, as well as limited housing, educational and employment opportunities.
In addition, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services takes a dim view of drunk people who transport children in vehicles. Depending on the circumstances of the case, DFPS may initiate a child welfare investigation over child endangerment concerns, which could affect future child custody.
Resources for DWI with Child Passenger in Denton, Texas
Texas Constitution and Statutes, Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 49 — DWI with Child Passenger — Read the Texas state laws pertaining to DWI (§ 49.04) and DWI with child passenger (§ 49.045) in Texas and the possible penalties that could arise from a conviction.
Denton County District Clerk — Find access to criminal records and felony criminal case information, miscellaneous court information and resources about the justice system throughout Denton County. The criminal courts are located at:
Denton County Courts Building
1450 E. McKinney St.
Denton, Texas 76209
Phone: (940) 349-2200
Texas Department of State Health Services Programs — The Texas DSHS offers offender education programs, including DWI education and intervention programs that may be required in a DWI case. Information about Texas’ Administrative License Revocation (ALR) program is also available.
Find A Denton County Defense Attorney for DWI with Child Passenger Charges | Law Office of Richard C. McConathy
If you were arrested for a felony DWI with a Child Passenger anywhere in Denton County, Texas, or the surrounding areas, contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.
The experienced DWI attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy will make every effort to help you avoid the serious penalties that often accompany a DWI with child passenger charges. We serve clients in Denton, Frisco, Lewisville, Flower Mound, and surrounding areas of Denton County, Texas.
We may be able to find problems with the prosecution’s case, flaws in any tests that were conducted, or with the arrest itself, which may result in a reduction or dismissal of charges. You have little time to lose in order to retain your driving privileges, so contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today at (940) 222-8004 to discuss your case.