In the state of Texas, driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 per cent or more, but not in excess of .15, is a Class B misdemeanor for a first offense and carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. If the BAC is greater than .15 percent, the offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000, or both. Under certain circumstances, a DWI charge may be elevated to a felony. One such scenario is drunk driving with a child in the car. Nearly all states, including Texas, have drunk driving child endangerment laws.
What is the penalty for DWI with a child passenger?
In Texas, if you are arrested for DWI with child under the age of 15 in the car, it is a state jail felony. You could face between 180 days to two years in a state jail facility, a fine of up to $10,000 and a suspension of driving privileges.
Other states with specific laws against drunk driving with child in car differ in both the age at which a passenger is considered a child in this context, and in the penalties. The following is not legal advice for these states, but an overview of what may or may not be the current state of the law outside of Texas. (Please contact lawyers who are eligible to practice outside of Texas, for DWI or DUI charges outside of Texas):
– Virginia – the penalty for DWI with a child passenger is a mandatory minimum of five days in jail and a fine of between $500 and $1,000. [VA ST §18.2-270(D)]
– Louisiana under DWI with child laws, a child is defined as under 12 years old. The penalty for a first offense is 10 days in jail and a $125 fine. For a second offense, the penalties are 90 days to 2.5 years in jail and a fine between $5,000 and $10,000. A third offense attracts a jail term of 30 days, while fourth and subsequent offenses are punishable by up to two years in jail. [LA RS §14.98(J)]
– Iowa has potentially the highest penalties for DWI with child. If you are caught driving while intoxicated with a passenger under the age of 14 and nobody is injured, you are subject to a penalty of two years in jail and a fine of $5,000. If there are injuries, the penalty may be 10 years in jail and a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000. More than three offenses in the same year with the same child, and one injury, may be punishable by up to 50 years in jail. [Case law]
Typical DWI with child cases in Texas
El Paso, TX February 2013
Police officers observed a 2010 Honda Fit stopped at an intersection with the engine running. As they approached the car, they discovered a 22-year-old woman asleep at the wheel with the keys in the ignition and her child under the age of 15 in the car with her. She was booked into El Paso County Jail on suspicion of DWI with child and held on $1,800 bond.
Bryan, TX September 2007
A 39-year-old man had been arrested two and a half years previously for felony DWI with child with his two daughters, aged 14 months and 11 years old, in the car. He had been in a crash and police noticed he had beer on his breath and his eyes were bloodshot. He admitted to drinking one or two beers and taking a prescription hydrocodone tablet earlier in the day. He declined to submit to either blood or field sobriety tests and declined to testify at his trial in September 2007.
The accident investigation revealed that he was not responsible for the crash. Because police had not observed him driving recklessly and because there were no drunk driving findings owing to his not submitting to tests, he was acquitted by the jury after one day of testimony and three and a half hours of deliberation.
Scheiner Law Group, P.C.
We are a criminal law firm serving the people of the Houston-The Woodlands-Conroe-Sugar Land-Galveston areas and other cities and towns in Texas, including the counties of Chambers, Brazoria, Waller, Austin and Walker. When we represent you on a DWI, we pull out all the stops in attempting to secure either a dismissal or a full acquittal and preserve your driving privileges.