Unintended DWI Consequences: Children Reporting Drunk Driving by Parents

Two children from Nebraska on a driving trip with their father in Colorado earlier this month texted 911 to report that their father appeared to be driving drunk. Ages 14 and 12, the oldest child asked her father to stop driving because she felt he was drunk. The father continued to drive. The same child warned her father that if his driving did not improve she would contact 911. The father continued to drive. When the father swerved into the nearby cars and lane, the young teen texted 911.

The 911 text operator was unable to track the moving vehicle, so the young teen convinced her father to stop and get them something to eat. While at the food stop the teen alerted the authorities. At the scene, the father underwent breathalyzer testing and blew three times the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit. Additionally, the father had alcohol in a drink cup in the front area of the vehicle.

The daughter wrapped up her feelings and that of her brother quite succinctly, “We don’t want to go anymore because you are drunk and I don’t want to die.” Driving while intoxicated (DWI) in and of itself is a serious crime. Driving drunk with children opens the parent up to additional charges, including challenges to custody and parenting or visitation time because of the inherent danger the children were under as the father drove them drunk. These children had the wherewithal to seek help, but younger children may not have the ability to understand the parent’s behavior or reach out to 911 by text.

DWI with Children Passengers

Most states now have statutes that specifically make it an enhanced crime to drive while intoxicated with children as passengers. In Texas, the age of the child is relevant. If the child in the car with the intoxicated parent is under 15, the parent will be charged under the DWI with Child Passenger statute, a felony crime with state jail minimum terms and additional financial penalties. Additionally, expect to be charged with child endangerment for driving while intoxicated.

Returning to the example above, if the father had been apprehended in Texas, he would have been charged with DWI, DWI with Child Passenger, and DWI with Open Container. The DWI with Open Container charge attached when the police found alcohol in a cup in the front of the vehicle. Open container violations have a minimum 6-day jail term and additional fines. The usual penalties also apply, license suspension and revocation.

Arrested for DWI in Dallas Area

At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm, our focus is helping those charged with DWI fight the charges against them. We understand that the nature of DWI cases can make a defense difficult, but do not allow that to dissuade you from protecting and defending your rights. Contact us today so that we can provide you a free case evaluation.

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