DWI Mothers with Children on the Rise

There is a disturbing trend where more mothers are getting arrested and charged for driving while intoxicated (DWI) with a minor (less than 15 years old) passenger. In a 10-year period, the number of mothers with DWIs in general jumped more than 20%, and many of them had a child with them at the time of the arrest.

DWI with a minor passenger (Texas Penal Code §49.04) is like getting a Go to Jail card; don’t pass Go, don’t collect $200. In Texas as in most other states, drunk driving while there is a child in a car has more serious consequences. For first time offenders the offense is a state jail felony, while an enhanced charge (for prior arrests or convictions) it could be elevated to third degree felony.

Under Texas law, a DWI does not necessarily mean intoxication through alcohol. It could be from the use of a dangerous drug even if it is prescribed or other substances even if they are legal; it cannot be used as a DWI defense. The law is designed to discourage a driver from getting behind the wheel after taking certain medication, for example, when it impairs their ability to operate a vehicle in any way.

Some experts speculate that this DWI mother trend is due to a cultural shift from a stay-at-home mom to working mom, which makes it more acceptable for women to drink alcohol. Another contributing factor is the increased stress resulting from the demands of work as well as home. Some women cope with it by drinking alcohol to relax, or taking medication. But because these have a significant effect on a person’s ability to focus, it is dangerous to drive, and poses an unacceptable level of risk to child passengers. As pointed out on the lomtl website, a conviction means a minimum of 180 days with a suspended license, up to 2 years in jail for a first offense, and a $10,000 fine.

Being charged under §49.04 is a serious matter, and needs to be addressed appropriately. Consult with a competent DWI lawyer in your area to legally represent you in this matter.