Driving while Intoxicated with a Child Passenger and Child Endangerment in Texas

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Posted on: September 26, 2016
DWI With a Child Passenger Attorney in Austin, Texas
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Child Endangerment and DWI with a Child Passenger 
Endangering a child is something that no parent wants to think about. Unfortunately, many children find themselves in danger or put in the place of harm even though that may not have been the intent of the parent. In the Texas Penal Code, child endangerment is divided into two different types: abandonment and endangerment. In this post, criminal defense attorney Jason Trumpler will discuss child endangerment, DWIs with a child passenger and the additional charges that can stem from these offenses. 
Child Endangerment Texas Penal Code § 22.041
If you operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated in the State of Texas not only can you be charged with driving while intoxicated with a child passenger, you can also be charged with child endangerment.  Texas Penal Code  § 22.041 states that child endangerment occurs when a child (any person under the age of 15) while in the custody of an adult is “put in risk of harm, danger of death or bodily injury or exposed to any conduct that could cause physical or mental impairment”. While that encompasses many different situations, the caregiver could commit an offense if they “knowingly, intentionally, recklessly or with criminal negligence” engage in conduct that could put a child at risk. Any charge under this section is a felony but the degree depends on the severity of the conduct and the danger that the child is exposed to.
For child endangerment charges, the consequences vary from jail time, prison, or probation, but almost always require involvement from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Below, we will discuss how the penal code applies to DWI offenses when there is a child in the vehicle. 
DWI with a Child Passenger Penal Code § 49.045
The Texas Penal code states that a person commits an offense if they are intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle with a child (person under 15 years of age) passenger present in the vehicle. This offense is considered a state jail felony and can be punishable by 180 days – 2 or more years in jail, a fine up to $10,000 and the suspension of the driver’s license for 180 days. 
In Texas, when you are charged with a DWI with a Child Passenger, the prosecution can also create an additional felony charge of child endangerment since driving while intoxicated exposes the child to potential harm. Texas is one of 47 states that can charge additional penalties to a drunk driver who drives with a child present in the vehicle. 
Additional Charges
BAC Level 
The higher the driver’s BAC level is over .08, especially those with a BAC greater than 0.15%, can have higher fines and more severe consequences than those with lower BAC levels. If the BAC is greater than 0.15% the prosecution could enhance the punishment to require installation of an ignition interlock device in addition to the other charges listed above. 
When a caregiver decides to drive intoxicated, they often do not follow normal safety protocols like requiring their children to use car-seats and seatbelts. According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), in severe or fatal crashes only 18% of drunk drivers had properly restrained their child passenger. This makes it even more dangerous for a child to be traveling with a driver who is intoxicated. Prosecutors can give extra penalties for those cases where the child was inadequately restrained or without a safety restraint. The charge for not providing a child with a seatbelt is a felony and if applicable can be added to the previous offenses. 
Another aspect to consider is the imposition of probation or parole even after a jail sentence. Most probationary sentences for DWI with a Child Passenger and Child Endangerment involve both jail time and fines. These probation punishments involve alcohol testing (SCRAM and/or vehicle interlock devices), extensive parenting classes and referral to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services 
The Texas DPS takes Child Endangerment and DWIs with Child Passengers charges very seriously and will usually start an investigation if a caregiver is convicted of these offenses. The offender could be monitored with home visits, have their custody temporarily or permanently taken away and the child or children placed with a family member or in foster care. 
If you or someone you know is facing Child Endangerment or DWI with a Child Passenger charges, the Law Offices of Jason Trumpler can help navigate these severe offenses. We have all the resources needed for these delicate situations and can be contacted 24/7 for jail release or assistance. It may be hard to get information after an offense is committed, save this number 512-457-5200 into your phone now, just in case
To prevent the charges above from happening always designate a sober driver or call a taxi service/ridesharing company if you have been drinking or too drunk to drive! 


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