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.
Texas DWI with Child Passengers
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.
The Texas Penal Code defines a driving while intoxicated (DWI) with a child passenger as operating a vehicle with one or more passengers under the age of 15 in the vehicle while you are intoxicated.
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.
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.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.