On its own, a DUI is a serious offense. However, if you are arrested with a DUI with a child in the car, you will likely face more severe penalties than a DUI arrest with adults inside your vehicle.
Depending on your state, a DUI arrest with a child in the car can be a separate charge, meaning you will face more than one charge if arrested. Notably, each state provides clear rules regarding the age that a child must be for aggravated charges and penalties to apply.
If you are facing DUI charges with a minor inside your car, it is best to contact an experienced DUI attorney who can fight for you and ensure your freedom or reduced penalties. At Stephen T Bowling Law, our highly experienced DUI attorneys have the experience, skills, and resources to provide aggressive defense for clients facing DUI charges.
Definition of DUI Arrest with a Child in a Car
Under the Texas Penal Code 49.045, DWI with a child is defined as operating a vehicle in public while intoxicated with passengers under the age of 15. Intoxication is having a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more or not having the normal use of your faculties because of the effects of alcohol or other drugs.
Penalties for DUI Arrest with Child in the Car
In Texas, the penalties that you are likely to face after a DUI arrest with a child in the car differs depending on whether the child got injured or not:
A Child in the Car Is Not Injured
If the child is not injured, you could face misdemeanor penalties in addition to the penalties for DUI/DWI offense. These penalties include:
- An automatic 180-day license suspension
- Two years in jail
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Additional child endangerment charges
Keep in mind that charges could be aggravated to include jail time and additional fines if you have prior felony convictions or previous DUI/DWI convictions.
A Child Passenger Is Injured
If the child passenger is injured in a car accident where the driver was intoxicated, the driver will face additional intoxication assault with serious bodily injury charges (SBI) in addition to the DWI with child passenger penalties.
A Child Passenger Fatality
If a child in your car dies due to a DUI road crash, you could face aggravated charges under class 2 felony attracting severe consequences. These include:
- 8 to 24 years in prison with mandatory five-year parole
- An automatic 180-day license suspension
- Wrongful death charges
Notably, other states impose even more severe penalties for driving while intoxicated with a child in the car. In Colorado, for example, you could face child abuse charges attracting class 3 felony penalties that attract 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of between $2,000 to $500,000. If it is determined you acted recklessly, the penalties increase to 4 to 12 years in Colorado prison with mandatory five-year parole. You could also face fines exceeding $750,000.
Additional Consequences of DUI Arrest with a Child in the Car
In addition to the criminal penalties discussed above, the other consequences of DUI arrest with a child in the car include:
- Mandatory probation
- Installation of an ignition interlocks service
- Attendance of DWI school repeat offender DWI school
- Completion of alcohol or drug education course
Collateral Consequences of DUI Arrest with a Child
DUI arrest with a child also attracts collateral consequences that can impact your life adversely. Because criminal and civil penalties of these crimes are severe, the collateral damages tend to be more significant when compared to the damages of the other associated crimes. These consequences can be classified as:
General collateral consequences: General collateral damages include stigma due to your criminal record, difficulties in finding a job, difficulties with acquiring or keeping professional licenses, and challenges obtaining or maintaining scholarships and school loans. You may also face challenges securing a house or home in your preferred neighborhood.
Child protection services: The Child Protection Services (CPS) can also swing into action once you are arrested with a DUI with a child passenger. For example, the Texas Family Code mandates professionals to report any suspected child abuse or neglect to CPS. As per this law, once you are charged with DUI/DWI, a prosecutor files a report to CPS if your child was inside the motor vehicle at the time of the arrest. The consequences of this report are usually long-term and life-changing. These include:
- CPS custody: If the authorities cannot locate another suitable family member at the time of arrest, the child will be taken into the custody of CPS
- Impact on divorce: If you are going through a divorce, the charge alone can impact child custody matters adversely even if the matters had been settled already
- Impact on shared custody: A DUI with a child in the car charge could complicate this agreement if you have a shared custody or visitation agreement.
- Loss of constitutional rights: You could also face collateral consequences specific to your constitutional rights. Once you are convicted of a DUI/DWI with a child passenger, you may no longer be able to exercise certain civic responsibilities, including the right to vote, the right to bear arms/possess firearms, the duty to serve on a jury.
Get Professional Help Today
A DUI arrest with a minor in the car can attract jail time, hefty fines, damage to reputation, and other severe consequences. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid or reduce the impacts of a felony DUI. If you are facing DUI charges with a child passenger, you need to act fast. The DUI lawyers from Stephen T Bowling Law have the experience, significant experience, and knowledge to successfully defend your case. Contact us today for a free initial non-obligatory consultation.