Every 20 minutes in Texas there is a car accident-related death or injury. These incidents usually happen because there is someone driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Getting pulled over and being penalized with a DUI in Texas is scary enough when you’re alone. So, what about getting a DUI with a child in the car? It’s safe to say that you can expect much greater consequences.
If you want to find out more about the consequences for a DUI with a child in the car, keep reading.
Getting a DUI With a Child in the Car
The state of Texas already considers driving while intoxicated a serious offense. You’ll receive a good old fashioned Texas DWI if you’re caught driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more. Depending on your BAC, you could be facing jail time, severe fines, license loss or suspension, and more.
Of course, with a minor in the car, the consequences of a DUI will be much worse. According to the Texas Penal Code 49.045, a DUI with a child in the car is defined as driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, or under the influence of drugs while there is one or more minors in the vehicle. In this case, “minors” are considered children that are 15 years of age or under.
In addition to this penal code, putting a minor at risk of death, injury, or physical impairment is considered child endangerment. Driving drunk or under the influences of drugs puts everyone on the road—including yourself—at risk. If this risk becomes an accident, you’ll be facing some serious penalties. Especially if there’s a child in your car.
The Penalties and Consequences
While a regular Texas DWI will typically result in a misdemeanor—depending on your BAC and whether or not you got into an accident—a DUI with a child in the car is automatically a felony.
The penalties and consequences that come with a DUI with a child in the car apply whether or not that child is yours. These charges also apply—and can be escalated—even if you don’t get into a physical accident.
If you are convicted of a DUI in Texas while there’s a child in your car, here’s what you can expect:
- A state jail felony, punishable by up to two years of state jail time. The minimum sentencing is 180 days
- An automatic suspension of your license for up to a minimum of 180 days
- Criminal fines up to $10,000—or more
- Surcharge fees of $1,000 per year or up to $2,000 for three years as a driver’s license retainer. The surcharge doesn’t usually exceed the $2,000
- A mandatory ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle—which you will pay for
- Mandatory rehabilitation programs and required treatment for drugs and alcohol
- A first notch or addition to a criminal record
- The loss of voting privileges
- The loss of certain government assistance
- The loss of your right to possess or own a firearm
- The loss of obtaining employment in certain professions
In addition to these penalties, you’ll also be facing a civil case with the Texas Department of Family Services (TDFS). They will temporarily remove your child or children from your home and conduct an investigation. This process is separate from the criminal processing.
Their investigation on top of your sentencing could result in the loss of custody of your child or children. It can also affect any joint custody terms you currently have or wish to have in the future with a prior spouse. This includes your visitation rights.
Refusal of a Breathalyzer or Blood Test
In the event that you are pulled over for suspicion of being intoxicated but refuse a breathalyzer or blood sample test, there will still be consequences. Separate from your criminal hearings, there will also be an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing. During this hearing, the state of Texas will most likely suspend your license.
If you receive notice of administrative license revocation, you have up to 15 days to respond. Failure to respond within the timeline of your notice will result in the automatic suspension of your license under the pretense that you are waiving your right to contest the revocation.
It doesn’t make a difference if it’s your first DUI offense or fifth—you’re license can and will be suspended by the state for the refusal to take a BAC test. This is considered a civil punishment rather than a criminal punishment. Your license will be suspended for a minimum of 90 days and up to two years.
Probation is a Possibility
The court will take into consideration a number of different factors when deciding the condition of your sentencing. These factors include how many children were in your car, their ages, your BAC, your record, if you got into an accident while intoxicated, etc.
This means that if you’re found guilty of DUI with a child in the car charges, there is a possibility that you’ll be granted probation. This could be in place of or in addition to jail time with minimal sentencing. Of course, you’ll need a lawyer to argue your defense and why you deserve probationary sentencing.
Understanding the Severity
In the eyes of Texas law, children don’t have the capacity to protect themselves. They especially don’t have control over the vehicle, how it’s driven, or who’s driving it. As an adult—parent or not—when you are driving with a child in your car, it’s your responsibility to provide care and protection.
To recap, getting a DUI with a child in the car in Texas is a criminal offense and child endangerment. So, if you’re facing criminal charges for a DUI/DWI in Texas involving a minor, you’re going to need a lawyer who has the experience and knowledge to fight a DUI case.
That’s us. Contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation.