It's never a good time to face an arrest for driving while intoxicated. But if you're currently going through a divorce, particularly if child custody is an issue, this can be a frightening time. It is unfortunately common for good folks be be arrested for a first time DWI with a pending divorce. In addition to court-imposed penalties, you could also lose your driver's license or job. But most importantly, a conviction for DWI could affect your child custody and visitation. That's why it's important to hire an attorney who is a DWI expert in DWI cases like Doug Murphy.
Legal Penalties for DWI
A first DWI conviction in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor. You could receive up to 180 days in jail and court-imposed fines of up to $2,000. If convicted, you will also face mandatory administrative fines of $3,000 for the first DWI conviction in 36 months. The court has no control power to lower these mandatory administrative fines.
If you happen to have a child in the car at the time of your DWI arrest, you could face even steeper penalties. Driving with a child under 15 in the car while intoxicated is a felony charge that you'll face in addition to the original DWI charge. Penalties for DWI with a child passenger include 180 days to up to two years in jail, up to a $10,000 fine and a license suspension.
Losing Your License
With a first conviction for DWI in Texas, you can lose your license for up to two years. This can affect virtually every aspect of your life, from taking your kids to school to getting to and from work easily. For some people who need a license for work, it can even affect their livelihood. All of this can affect your divorce proceedings and custody issues. Fortunately, there is a way to contest the administrative loss of your license.
When the police arrest you for a DWI, they will take your license and give you a sheet of paper that will serve as your temporary license for 40 days. You will have only 15 days to request an Administrative License Revocation hearing to contest the loss of your license. If you request a hearing, you will be able to continue to drive until your ALR hearing.
At the ALR hearing, the state must show that the police officer had probable cause to stop you and that your blood alcohol content was .08% or higher, .04% or higher if you have a commercial driver's license. This hearing is a good opportunity for you and your attorney to see the evidence the state has against you before you head to criminal court for your DWI.
When a DWI Can Affect Your Job
If your job depends on a clean driving history, a DWI conviction or even a temporary loss of your license can result in the loss of your career. For commercial drivers, a DWI conviction can result in the suspension of your commercial driver's license. Moreover, you can face a DWI conviction with a BAC of .04% instead of the higher standard for most Texas drivers of .08%.
Losing your job can affect your financial settlement and render you unable to make support payments or cover medical bills. In the worst-case scenario, losing your job could affect your custody arrangements.
Child Custody Disputes and DWI
In Texas, there are two basic types of custody:
- Joint conservatorship: Courts prefer to award joint custody where both parents make medical and educational decisions for a child, but one parent has primary custody. The primary parent will determine where the child lives, and the parents utilize a visitation schedule for the other parent.
- Sole conservatorship: When one parent has sole custody, they make all decisions about a child's living arrangements, health, and education. The other parent will often still be entitled to visitation. This arrangement may happen if the court determines that one parent is not fit to make decisions on behalf of a child.
The family court will make custody and visitation decisions based on the child's best interests. In making this determination, the judge will consider:
- The child's physical and emotional needs,
- The stability of each parent,
- Danger to the child,
- The ability to maintain a relationship with both parents,
- Each parent's involvement with the child,
- Community and family support, and
- The child's preferences.
In determining a parent's stability, the court will look at each parent's ability to maintain a stable home, dependable childcare, and a reliable job. A criminal history such as DWI convictions or losing a job can also affect the court's decision in your custody determination.
A DWI can often be a red flag for a family court, indicating you will have difficulty providing a stable and safe home environment for a child. The court may also be concerned that you will drive while intoxicated with a child in your car, raising further safety questions. If you have multiple DWI convictions, the court may treat you as if you have a substance abuse problem, limiting your visitation with your children.
Hire an Expert in DWI Defense
Facing DWI charges, including felony DWI charges, can be a serious matter, particularly if you're in the middle of a divorce and custody dispute. You need an expert in DWI law by your side to have the best chance of avoiding a conviction and the loss of your license. It's important to hire an attorney who can handle complex DWI cases, including ALR hearings. You'll also need a lawyer who understands and appreciates a DWI conviction's impact on your divorce and custody proceedings. Attorney Doug Murphy is such an attorney. Doug is an expert in both Texas DWI Defense and Criminal Defense Law. He is one of only two Texas attorneys who is Board Certified in the complex specialty areas of DWI law. Doug is also a celebrated attorney in Texas as the Best Lawyers in America twice named Doug the "Lawyer of the Year" for Houston DWI defense in 2021 and 2023 published in U.S. News & Word Report.
Doug Murphy and his experienced team have handled thousands of DWI cases as both prosecutors and defense attorneys. That means you can be sure they can build a rigorous defense and advocate and negotiate on your behalf. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today at 713-229-8333, and find out how they can help you. Or contact them online to schedule a consultation.