Driving while impaired is a problem everywhere, but Texas has been hit especially hard. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that someone in Texas is injured or killed in a car accident that involves alcohol about every 20 minutes. While a blood alcohol content of .08 percent is the legal limit, in actuality, a driver who is below this limit can be convicted of DWI if the state can prove that the motorist’s ability to drive safely was impaired. The standard penalties for a first DWI in Texas are significant, but when there is an aggravating factor – such as having a child in the vehicle – the charge becomes a state jail felony with much more serious penalties.
Having a Child Passenger
When you have passengers who are children, they have no control over how safely the vehicle is operated, and you, as the driver, are solely responsible for keeping them safe. As such if you are charged with a DWI with a child passenger who is under the age of 15 in your vehicle, you face serious penalties, including:
- Spending between 180 days and two years behind bars
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Community service of up to 1,000 hours
- A driver’s license suspension of up to 180 days
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on your car
There are also collateral consequences that can apply and should be taken into consideration, including:
- Loss of voting privileges
- Loss of the right to receive certain types of government assistance
- Loss of the right to own or possess a firearm
- Changes made to your child custody arrangements
- Loss of the right to child visitation
The negative financial and social consequences of such a conviction for you and your entire family are not difficult to imagine.
In Texas, driving while under the influence with a child passenger may be deemed a form of child endangerment even if the child is not injured in the process. In Texas, child endangerment is the crime of knowingly, intentionally, recklessly, or negligently engaging in an act that puts a child under the age of 15 in harm’s way. If the Texas Department of Family Services becomes involved, it could negatively affect your custody arrangements.