DWI Child Passenger Charges Defense Attorney in Fort Worth
At the Fulgham Law Firm P.C., our experienced DWI defense lawyers are well aware that any DWI conviction can have serious consequences in terms of both formal sentencing terms and the effects that flow from such a conviction. When you are convicted of DWI with a passenger under the age of 15, the potential consequences can be even more serious including incarceration, a state jail felony conviction and substantial fines.
Transporting a child passenger under age 15 when you are intoxicated may even be considered child endangerment or abuse which could lead to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services taking your child from your custody.
Because we understand that these formal penalties are accompanied by potential long-term consequences that may impact your job, education, immigration status, future employment opportunities and more, we use our experience handling these types of cases to seek acquittal or the best potential plea agreement to mitigate these harsh consequences.
People get pulled over by police every day for a variety of reasons. For not coming to a full stop at a stop sign to impaired driving, every stop by police is serious in its own way – especially if there are kids in the car and the driving has been drinking.
Recently a woman was pulled over in Harris County, Texas with her four-year-old daughter in the back. According to police, she was visibly intoxicated, mumbling to officers and stumbling out of the car.
Harris County Mom Found Over 5x the Legal Limit
She was taken to the hospital where her blood alcohol content was found to be 0.44. This is over five times the legal blood alcohol content in Texas.
You would think that such an egregious violation would result in jail time, but the prosecutor entered into a plea deal with the woman and she got two years of probation.
Still, she could have faced much more serious charges of a felony DUI and endangerment of a child, which is why you should always think twice before getting behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking – especially with your children in the back.
Here’s what you need to know about DWIs in Texas and child endangerment as well as what happens when you enter into a plea deal for charges as serious as these.
DWI with a Child Passenger under the Age of 15
When a driver is arrested for DWI with a child passenger under 15 years of age in Fort Worth or elsewhere in Tarrant County, the driver will usually be charged with a state jail felony offense.
In Texas, when you operate a vehicle with a child or children in the backseat, you are taking responsibility for their safety as you operate the car. When driving under the influence, you are endangering that child’s safety and that can result in some serious legal penalties.
Texas Penal Code Section 49.045 provides that the crime of Driving While Intoxicated With A Child Passenger under the age of 15 years old has been committed when the prosecutor proves the following elements:
- The individual is driving a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated; and
- A passenger in the vehicle is under 15 years old.
The law further defines intoxication as having a blood alcohol content of 0.8 percent or higher or lacking the use of physical or mental faculties due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs as you operate a vehicle.
Penalties of a DWI with a Child Passenger
If you are found guilty of a DWI with a child passenger in Texas, then you may face several different penalties, both criminal and civil, such as:
- Up to two years in a state prison
- Fines up to $10,000
- Suspension of your driver’s license for up to six months
- The fee to have your license reinstated and keep is $2,000/year for three years
- The installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
- Alcohol and drug treatment or rehabilitation programs
These are penalties even if no one, including the child, is hurt but it’s important to note that you will face more severe penalties if someone is hurt during the commission of the DWI or if you have prior convictions.
Possible Civil Penalties for Texas Child Endangerment
Once the aspect of the DWI is dealt with, you still must face the charges of child endangerment. Often, these involve civil investigations by Child Protective Services and can result in the loss of custody of your children.
This situation makes it even more vital for you to understand the charges against you in a DWI that involves a child under 15 and what the consequences of that may be.
Because this serious form of DWI offense will likely be treated as a state jail felony, you may face other serious consequences that result from a felony conviction. The conviction could have the following consequences:
- Forfeiture of the right to vote or hold political office
- A criminal record
- Surrender of your right to own or possess a firearm
- Disqualification from certain types of public assistance or financial aid
- Ineligibility to engage in certain professions like the practice of law
Drive Drunk with a Kid, Get Hit with Texas Child Endangerment Charges
If you receive a DWI with a child in the vehicle, you can be charged with child endangerment.
The Texas statute on child endangerment reads:
- “A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engages in conduct that places a child younger than 15 years in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.”
Child endangerment also applies to reckless driving with a child passenger, failing to secure your child with a seat belt or appropriate car seat, or abandoning a child under 15 years old in a vehicle. These charges may be filed along with DWI charges.
Considering a Texas Plea Deal
Plea deals are a common way to resolve criminal cases before they go to trial. In a plea deal, prosecutors on your case agree to reduce the charges or lower your sentence in exchange for you to plead guilty to the charges.
In cases where the charges are reduced, prosecutors agree to lower the level of the charges in order for your agreement to plead guilty to a charge that is less severe than what you were originally charged with.
Sentence reduction plea deals to offer a resolution to your case for the same charges you are currently charged with but a sentence that is at the lower end of the spectrum for your sentencing. For example, a DWI in Texas that may result in up to six months in prison and fines of $1,000 may be lowered to a sentence of no jail time with a reduced fine, but the charge will still be a part of your record.
Plea Deals Aren’t Always the Right Option
Prosecutors are often encouraged to strike plea bargains in many cases simply to help reduce the strain on the court system, but this isn’t the right path for everyone. Sometimes there are circumstances that prove the adult was making the very best decision at the time the crime was committed, for instance.
For this reason and others, a skilled attorney with experience making these kinds of decisions (and in negotiating plea bargains when it is the right path) is imperative.
Defenses to DWI or Child Endangerment Charges
A skilled Texas criminal attorney will know of a number of different defenses that may be appropriate in helping you to fight your charges, including the following:
Lack of Proper Stop
If the police pulled you over for reasons other than erratic driving or not wearing a seat belt, your case may be dropped.
Lack of Protocol
Did the law enforcement officer read your Miranda rights at the time of arrest? If not, you can use this defense to have everything you said to them stricken from the record. You can also use a lack of protocol defense if the police used unnecessary force against you.
DWI Field Sobriety Test – Failure To Follow Proper Protocols
When you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, the arresting officer will ask you to perform a field test to check for signs of inebriation. You may fail the field test due to physical impairments, or your eyes may be bloodshot due to allergies or other medical conditions. If so, you can use this defense to your charges.
Breathalyzer Test – Failure of Machine
The police will most likely test your breath for alcohol when you are pulled over. The test can register a false positive for many reasons. If the equipment is not properly calibrated, if the officer isn’t using it correctly, or if foreign materials are detected as alcohol, your test results can’t be used in court.
Blood Test Compromised
At the police station, your blood will be drawn in another test. If the blood samples are mishandled in any way, your test results could be skewed. If your attorney can prove that the samples were compromised, they cannot be used as evidence against you.
Fort Worth DWI Felony Attorney
If you have been arrested for DWI with a child under 15 traveling in your motor vehicle in Fort Worth, you should exercise your right to remain silent and to speak to a Fort Worth DWI lawyer before answering any questions. Because of the serious nature of the offense of DWI with a child passenger, it is important to find an experienced DWI attorney. At Fulgham Law Firm P.C., we carefully investigate the facts and circumstances so that we can develop effective defense strategies to protect you from the harsh consequences of a conviction for this serious DWI offense. Contact our Fort Worth office now at 817-886-3078 for a free and confidential consultation with a skilled Fort Worth DWI Attorney.
Call us right now to get help.
We’ve helped hundreds of people in Texas and we can help you too. We’ll set you up with a free conversation with Mr. Fulgham which will help you know what to do next. The Fulgham Law Firm serves Fort Worth and Tarrant county areas.