DWI & Child Endangerment in Texas

Texas state law treats driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs as a serious crime. DUI-related accidents can often lead to fatalities and severe injuries – and if an intoxicated driver has a child in his or her vehicle at the time, the state considers this act a form of child endangerment. If you are facing charges for DUI child endangerment, you may face severe penalties ranging from license suspension to jail time.

What Is Child Endangerment?

Child endangerment is a serious crime in Texas, often punishable by felony charges. This crime usually involves the following four factors.

  • First, the crime must involve a situation that endangers a child. This can encompass any number of different events, including leaving a child in a hot car, exposing a child to drugs or firearms, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a child in the vehicle.
  • The child suffers from an actual injury, or the action puts him or her at risk of potential injury. Child endangerment laws are in place to punish behavior that could harm a child, whether or not an injury occurred. In addition, any action that could harm a child’s health, emotional well-being, or welfare could be a form of child endangerment.
  • The crime must meet the reasonable person standard. This doctrine examines whether or not a reasonable person would have known that the action or situation would put the child in danger. For example, a reasonable person would know that driving under the influence with a child in the car is dangerous.
  • Finally, the court will consider whether an honest mistake occurred. For a situation to qualify as child endangerment, the action must be more than a mistake or an unwise decision. For example, leaving a child in a locked car with air conditioning for twenty minutes is not an act of child endangerment. However, driving with a child while under the influence is not an honest mistake.

Texas Penalties for Child Endangerment

If you receive a conviction for child endangerment, you could receive a state jail felony charge. In less serious instances, you could receive a misdemeanor charge. The designation depends on the circumstances of your case; typically, the more severe the damage to the child, the higher the penalties can be.

A state jail felony applies when the action places the child in imminent danger, is especially reckless and negligent, or involves any possession or ingestion of a controlled substance. Any situation that involves criminal intent or knowledge is a felony as well.

Driving under the influence with a child in the car is a state jail felony. If the court finds you guilty of this charge, you can face the following penalties.

  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Up to two years in state jail
  • A driver’s license suspension for up to 180 days

Can Child Endangerment Charges Be Dropped?

You may be able to have the court drop these charges if the evidence against you shows that the situation does not amount to child endangerment. For driving under the influence with a child passenger, proving this fact can be very difficult. Contact an attorney to help you build a compelling defense.

Your attorney can provide a number of benefits for your case.

  • Investigative resources and a wide network of expert witnesses who can provide testimony on your behalf
  • Knowledge of Texas DUI and child endangerment laws, as well as applicable defenses
  • The ability to assist you with the criminal justice system, helping you understand how to prepare and know what to expect at your arraignment and hearings

If you are facing child endangerment charges for driving while intoxicated in Texas, you may be feeling scared and anxious. Navigating the criminal justice system after these charges can be complicated, but legal options are available to you. Contact a Houston criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can after your arrest to discuss your legal options. Your attorney can help investigate your claim and prepare you for your court dates

David Breston

David Breston has represented over 3,000 clients charged with Federal, State, and juvenile crimes in Texas and is a native Houstonian. Mr. Breston is a proud member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Harris County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Throughout his years as an experienced criminal defense lawyer, he has taught seminars at Princeton and helped law students with their GMAT test review.

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