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Getting a DWI with a Child Passenger

Ever made the mistake of having one too many drinks at a friendly event before trying to drive your family home? You’re not alone. Getting a DWI with a child passenger is not an unheard of charge.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious matter on its own, but getting arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) with a passenger under 15 is exponentially worse. Not only could you face charges under Missouri’s DWI laws, but you could also be charged under the state’s Child Endangerment laws. 

Such a scenario can be terrifying to any driver, so the following article is intended to equip you with the information you need to navigate this treacherous topic. It’ll explore the differences between Missouri’s laws on DWIs and child endangerment, how charges under either are classified, and the potential punishments that accompany both. 

Potential DWI Charges

An “intoxicated condition” is when a person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or drug, or any combination of the two. With that in mind, simply driving a vehicle in an intoxicated condition is technically a DWI, even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is within the legal limit (0.08%). Those who drive with a BAC over 0.08% instead commit the offense of
driving with excessive BAC, which comes with much harsher penalties.

What is the Penalty for a DWI with a Child Passenger?

DWIs start as a class B misdemeanor (30 days to 6 months in prison and up to a $1,000 fine), but can escalate to a class A misdemeanor (at least 6 months in prison and up to a $2,000 fine) if the driver is a prior offender or a child is present.

DWI charges can further escalate to class A felonies and incur a range of potential punishments from a few years to life in prison (or the death penalty) and up to a $10,000 fine.

Penalties for DUIs with excessive BAC start as class B misdemeanors but can escalate up to class B felonies based on the defendant’s driving record.

What is Child Endangerment?

In Missouri, there are two levels of child endangerment; charges in the first or second degree.

First (RSMo §568.045)

If a person:

  • knowingly creates a substantial risk to a child’s health or life
  • engages in sexual conduct with the child
  • encourages or aids a child in breaking a controlled substance law
  • violates drug laws regarding meth and amamphetamines with a child present or in a child’s residence
Class D felony

Class C felony if: 

  • the charges were part of a pattern of activity involving multiple people 
  • the defendant is a repeat offender 
  • the child was injured
Class B felony if the child was seriously injured
Class A felony if the child died
Second (RSMo §568.050)

If a person:

  • negligently creates a substantial risk to a child’s health or life
  • encourages, aids, or causes a child to commit a crime
  • recklessly fails or refuses to reasonably try to prevent a child from committing a crime
  • knowingly encourages, aids, or causes a child to enter a public nuisance room, building, or structure
Class A misdemeanor 
Class E felony if the charges were part of a pattern of activity involving multiple people


DWI charges are never to be taken lightly, especially if a child happens to be in the vehicle too. Not only will the driver face DWI charges, they’ll probably receive a felony child endangerment charge as well. In addition to losing their licenses, they’ll have increased jail time, steeper fines, and may even endanger the custody of their children

If you’re facing a potential DUI with a child in the car, it’s highly recommended that you reach out to a legal professional as soon as possible. Given the severity of the potential punishments, you’ll want the best legal defense possible, which is far more likely to come from an experienced DWI attorney than a public defender or handing things yourself. The sooner you contact a DWI attorney near you, the more time they’ll have to explore your case and work on a strategy for your case.

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Frequently Asked Questions

In most cases, yes. If you’re charged with endangerment in the second degree it may instead be a class A misdemeanor, but it depends on the circumstances.

Given that the least severe child endangerment charge in Missouri is still a class A misdemeanor, you’ll likely spend some time in prison if you’re convicted. 

An experienced attorney may be able to get your sentence reduced depending on the facts of your case, so it’s best to reach out as soon as possible to give them more time to work on your defense.  

Yes, if you’re arrested for a DUI with a child passenger, Missouri’s Department of Social Services might be contacted to open an investigation into your parental privileges.


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