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DWI with a Passenger Under 15 in Texas

Ben Michael

If you are arrested in Texas for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), and you have a passenger under the age of 15 in the car, you are facing a State Jail Felony charge that carries severe penalties.

A felony conviction will give you a permanent criminal record, which will have a huge impact on your life. If you’re in this position, you need to contact a lawyer with experience handling DWI cases immediately.

DWI with a Passenger Under 15 in the Texas Penal Code

DWI offenses are covered by Title 10, Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code. If you are operating a motor vehicle in a public place with your physical or mental capabilities impaired by alcohol or drugs, you are driving while intoxicated.

No specific concentration of alcohol is required to support a DWI charge, but most DWI charges involve a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.

A first DWI charge is a Class B or Class A Misdemeanor, depending on the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at the time of the offense. If there is a child under 15 in the motor vehicle, Section 49.045 raises the charge to a State Jail Felony. 

An arrest for DWI with a passenger under 15 follows a set pattern.

  • A traffic stop. The officer must have probable cause to pull you over.
  • Field sobriety tests, like walking heel-to-toe in a straight line or standing on one foot.
  • A field breath test may be administered.
  • Identification of the passenger. The officer must identify and verify the age of the passenger.
  • Final tests. A legal breath test requires a 15-minute observation period. Blood or urine tests may also be used. These tests will not be performed in the field.

You can refuse to be tested. This will be a violation of Texas’ Implied Consent Law, and you will face a lengthy license suspension. This may still be better than a charge of DWI with a passenger under 15. If the arresting officer gets a warrant, you cannot refuse to provide samples.

If you refuse testing, you need to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.

Penalties for DWI with Child Passenger

A DWI charge with a passenger under 15 is punishable with between 180 days and two years in jail, a driver’s license suspension for 180 days, and a fine of up to $10,000. Other penalties are possible.

  • Community service up to 1,000 hours.
  • A period of probation.
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) that will require a breath test before your car can start.
  • An alcohol or drug education course or DWI school..
  • Other fees as determined by the court.

Penalties will be more severe if your BAC is high, if you have prior convictions, or if you have an accident while intoxicated.

Collateral Consequences of a DWI with a Passenger Under 15

A felony conviction is a permanent criminal record. This will have a severe and lasting impact on your life.

  • Your car insurance will get much more expensive.
  • You may lose a professional license or be unable to get one.
  • You may face an investigation from Child Protective Services if you have children. If you are divorced, you may lose custody or visitation rights.
  • It may be difficult to find a job or housing.
  • It may be difficult to get accepted to schools or get scholarships or loans.
  • As a convicted felon, you will lose the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, and the right to own a firearm.

Retaining an experienced attorney will give you the highest possible chance of getting your charges reduced or even dismissed.

Texas DWI with a Minor Defenses

It is possible to beat a charge of DWI with a passenger under 15 in Texas. You have rights, and prosecutors have to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt. There are several points in the process that your lawyer could challenge.

  • The initial stop. If the officer did not have probable cause to stop you, the arrest may be invalid from the start.
  • The field sobriety test. If you were distracted or tired at the time of the stop, if you have a medical condition affecting balance, or if the officer didn’t have the training or experience needed to execute and interpret the test, it may not be valid.
  • The breathalyzer test. If the machine was defective or improperly calibrated, if the legally required observation period was not followed, or if the personnel implementing the test were not qualified, the test may not be admissible as evidence.
  • Blood or urine tests. The samples may have been collected in a way that violates your rights, the equipment may be defective, or the operators may be unqualified.
  • Failure to accurately determine the age of your passenger. If the passenger was, in fact, over age 15, the charges will be reduced to a basic DWI.
  • Other procedural errors. If the arresting officer does not follow approved procedures or makes inaccurate or misleading statements, the charges could be reduced or dismissed. 

Your lawyer will review every detail of your case and identify anything that can be used to help you build a defense, raise reasonable doubt, and get the charges against you reduced or dismissed.

The Best Strategy If Charged with DWI with a Passenger Under 15

Developing an effective strategy to fight a charge of DWI with a passenger under 15 requires detailed knowledge of the laws, legal precedents, and required procedures for prosecuting DWI cases. You cannot do this yourself. You need an experienced professional on your side.

The first and most important step in defending yourself against these charges is to find and retain a lawyer with extensive experience in handling DWI cases.

Ben Michael

Ben has vast experience in defending criminal cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has countless criminal charges dismissed and pled down. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.

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