Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger (aka “DWI with Child“) is an offense that you commit by driving “drunk” or under the influence of drugs while a child younger than 15 years old is in the car. Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger is a DWI offense that automatically turns a “simple” DWI into a state jail felony. Learn more about DWI offenses
Update: Effective as of September 1, 2019, there are additional fines required to be imposed on intoxication-related offenses, including DWI. Learn more about these changes below.
DWI WITH CHILD ATTORNEY FAQs
- What is the current Texas law about Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger?
- What is the punishment for Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger conviction?
- What if the child passenger is my child?
- Does it matter if the child passenger was not injured?
- What should I do if CPS or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services gets involved in my Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger case?
DWI offenses are found in Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code. Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger is not simply a DWI enhancement or subsection of the basic DWI offense. DWI with Child is its own offense.
The current Texas law is as follows:1
(a) A person commits an offense if:
(1) the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place; and
(2) the vehicle being operated by the person is occupied by a passenger who is younger than 15 years of age.
Along with the four elements common of DWI offenses (intoxication, operation, motor vehicle and public place) the Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger offense requires the state’s attorneys to also prove that a passenger 14 years old or younger was in the car while the DWI was taking place.
The Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger offense is a state jail felony.2 Under Texas Penal Doe Section 12.35, a state jail felony is punishable by a minimum of 180 days in a state jail and a maximum of 2 years in a state jail and a maximum fine of $10,000. Learn more about DWI conviction penalties
HB 2048, 86th Texas Legislative Session, created additional fines for all offenses relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated.2a These new fines range from $3,000 to $6,000, and are as follows:2b
- (1) $3,000 for the first conviction within a 36-month period;
- (2) $4,500 for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36-month period; and
- (3) $6,000 for a first or subsequent conviction if it is shown on the trial of the offense that an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed.
If the child passenger in your car is your own child, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) will likely get involved and accuse you of endangering the welfare of your child. If DFPS gets involved, your child could be removed from your custody pending the outcome of an investigation and welfare hearing that can take a year or more. It is also possible that CPS may remove your child from your home permanently if it determines that you are not a suitable parent. CPS cases are complex and separate from the criminal case, and your rights are very different than they are in criminal court. You will need to address these issues with a family law attorney.
Because Texas DFPS reasons that a Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger case places the child in danger of death or serious injury, DFPS classifies this offense as a form of neglect under Section 261.001 of the Texas Family Code.3
You may be charged and convicted of Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger even if the child in the vehicle was not injured and even if you did not injure any one else at all.
What should I do if the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services gets involved in my Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger case?
If the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) gets involved in your DWI with Child Passenger case because your child or children were in the car, you will need to hire an attorney who is experienced in handling child protective services cases in addition to a criminal lawyer. Criminal law and CPS-related family law are very different practice areas.
CPS is most often alerted about a possible case of child endangerment in a Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger case by the arresting officer or the prosecutor handling the case. Although CPS is not always alerted, professionals (including police and prosecutors) are mandated by law to report such cases.4
If CPS decides they want to get involved, they are able to remove children from a home quickly and without notice.5 However, Texas law requires an “adversary” hearing within 14 days (with one possible 7 day extension) from the removal.6 You should make sure to be represented by an attorney at this hearing to contest the removal.
It is important to remember that you are not required to talk to DFPS should they get involved in your Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger case. However, you should make the decision about whether to talk with CPS or cooperate more fully only with the advice of an attorney.
(a) In this section, “offense relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated” has the meaning assigned by Section 49.09, Penal Code.
(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c), in addition to the fine prescribed for the specific offense, a person who has been finally convicted of an offense relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated shall pay a fine of:
(1) $3,000 for the first conviction within a 36-month period;
(2) $4,500 for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36-month period; and
(3) $6,000 for a first or subsequent conviction if it is shown on the trial of the offense that an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed.
(A) the leaving of a child in a situation where the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm, without arranging for necessary care for the child, and the demonstration of an intent not to return by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator of the child;
(B) the following acts or omissions by a person:
(i) placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate harm to the child …’
5 Chapter 262 of the Texas Family Code governs the procedures of the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Recent Case Results
- 2019 Not Guilty in Collin County DWI >0.15
- 2019 Not Guilty in Dallas County Indecency with a Child
- Oral Argument at the United States Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Prosecutorial Misconduct Claim arising out of Northern District of Texas
- 2018 Not Guilty in Martin County Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Peace Officer
- Not Guilty in 2018 Dallas County DWI Trial
- Client cleared in Dallas Police Shooting wrongful accusation
- Federal sentencing results in 10 Year Downward Deviation from Sentencing Guidelines in 2018
- Not Guilty Jury Verdict for client originally accused of Intoxication Manslaughter
- Case Dismissed after picking jury in Aggravated Sexual Assault of Child case in 2017
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- 2016 Dismissal of Fort Worth Federal Possession of Obscene Visual Representation of the Sexual Abuse of Children
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