A driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrest with a minor child (i.e., under the age of 15) as a passenger in your vehicle is a felony offense in Texas, according to Tex. Pen. Code 49.045. The consequences of a conviction of the same are dire. You face years in prison (180 days to 2 years), steep fines (up to $10,000), community service, DWI education class, license suspension, and collateral consequences like:
- challenges getting a job
- challenges acquiring or retaining security clearance
- challenges acquiring or retaining professional licenses (e.g., pilot's license, nursing license, medical license, teaching license, CPA license, real estate license)
- challenges with maintaining or obtaining child custody
- challenges to child visitation rights
- challenges with certain government assistance (e.g., educational loans)
- loss of constitutional rights (e.g., the right to vote and the right to own or use a firearm).
The above consequences can be more devastating than any jail time or fines combined. So, a conviction of a DWI with a minor is not an option for many people, especially those that we represent. These are people who are hard workers, who are professionals, who are students, who have never had a criminal record before – and you want to ensure the latter does not transpire.
You think probation may be the answer. And indeed for some people convicted of a DWI with a minor in Harris County, Texas, you will be able to get probation. The court will consider a number of factors, like:
- Do you have any prior DWIs?
- Do you have a criminal record?
- What is your role in society?
- What is your job/career?
- How dependent is your family on you?
Based on these and other questions, the prosecutor may offer you a plea deal that includes probation. But there are things you should consider first before accepting such a plea deal.
An Example of a DWI with a minor Scenario in Houston, Texas
Maybe you were simply out with family having a drink during dinner and you had the audacity to be honest with overzealous police when pulled over for turning left without using your signal. One drink will not place you in the danger zone of being legally intoxicated to drive, but the police will use that information and look for any signs to corroborate an arrest.
You don't have to have a preliminary breath test indicate that your blood alcohol content level is 0.08% or higher in order to be arrested; all the police need is:
- your admission of a drink (never-mind you are allowed to have a drink at dinner),
- bloodshot eyes (never-mind you work long hours and your always a little tired), and
- a stutter when you speak (never-mind being pulled over makes everyone nervous in light of police misconduct today).
In these types of cases, you may be anxious to get the case over and accept a plea deal that allows you to have probation in place of most of your jail time. Your logic is simple: you can get back to your life and put this whole situation behind you sooner than later. Plus, the prospect of prison scares just about anyone.
But accepting a felony plea deal with probation in these types of cases can do you more harm than good. Here, we explain – in addition to the above-mentioned collateral consequences – why felony probation may not be in your best interests and why fighting the charge may be.
The Problem with Probation and DWI Felony Cases in Houston, TX
You can get probation for DWI with a minor, especially if you can show good standing in your community and have no prior criminal record. Probation is usually offered via a plea deal. But probation comes with a price, and that price is in the form of the terms and conditions of the probation agreement. At a minimum, these terms can include:
- jail or prison time, even though you thought there would be no jail or prison time if you were offered probation;
- limits on travel, i.e., if you want to go to another county or outside the state for any reason, it will likely require prior approval by your probation officer;
- limits on changing your residency, i.e., if you want to move to another location, even just another house, you will likely need prior approval by your probation officer;
- prohibition on consumption of any drugs (unless prescription) and/or alcohol;
- prohibition on any use of a firearm, even for recreational purposes;
- strict attendance of all appointments with your probation officer;
- strict attendance of any DWI educational classes;
- limits of who you can associate with, e.g., you may not be able to associate with anyone else who is a felon or who is currently on probation; and
- satisfaction of all fines and fees, including those associated with the court, probation, and any DWI educational classes.
Violation of any of these terms and conditions can result in additional jail or prison time as well as other penalties. Probation is a risk, a risk you will have to speak to your attorney about to ensure you are making the right decision for you and your family. The alternative is fighting the charge.
Fighting a Charge of DWI with a Minor in Harris County, Texas
Fight a charge of DWI with a Minor can also be a risk, but – with the right attorney – may not be as risky. With a Board Certified DWI attorney or a Board Certified criminal defense attorney, one who has proven skills and trial experience, you stand a fighting chance. Fighting this kind of charge effectively is more than having a defense; it involves strategy.
Defenses can include things like:
- You were not intoxicated.
- Your BAC level was under 0.08%.
- The breath test is inaccurate for any number of reasons.
- The blood test is inadmissible for any number of reasons.
- The field sobriety test results are inaccurate for any number of reasons.
- There was no reasonable suspicion to pull you over.
- There was no probable cause to arrest you.
- Your person and property were searched and seized unlawfully.
Defense strategies incorporate any of the above (or another defense) to create a compelling argument against guilt and instilling doubt that you were indeed driving while intoxicated. Defense strategies include things like:
- Filing motions to suppress evidence;
- Filing a motion to dismiss;
- Challenging the prosecutor and the State's witnesses, including police testimony;
- Challenging the results of field sobriety tests, breath tests, and blood tests;
- Calling into question the credibility of experts;
- Providing supporting expert testimony;
- Appealing to the juries sympathies.
Contact a Board Certified DWI Defense and Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney Today
In Texas, there are only two attorneys who are simultaneously Board Certified in DWI defense and Board Certified in criminal law. One of these two lawyers is Doug Murphy. His office is conveniently located in Houston, Texas, but he represents clients throughout the Houston metropolitan area.
Doug Murphy believes in fighting for your rights and freedom. He knows it's the only way to avoid damaging collateral consequences. He also knows that fighting is a scary endeavor, but he is here to reassure you that it is an opportunity to remain free of a criminal record. Contact his office today to schedule your free initial consultation.