Drivers under the age of 21 are not old enough to buy alcohol and Texas law makes it illegal for an underage driver to have any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. The zero-tolerance policy in Texas can result in a license suspension, fines, and community service. If you are a driver who was arrested while an underage DWI, contact an Odessa DWI lawyer to understand your rights and fight a criminal conviction.
Under-21 DWI Laws in Texas
Texas driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws depend, in part, on the age of the driver. For DWI laws, a “minor” is defined as anyone under 21 years old. Under Texas' zero tolerance laws for underage drivers, a minor who is driving with ANY detectable amount of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle on a public street is guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol by a minor (DUIA by a Minor).
Any amount of alcohol is enough for a DUIA by a Minor charge, even 0.02% blood alcohol content (BAC). Even if the driver is not drunk, consuming half of a beer may be enough to trigger an over-the-limit BAC.
If the police believe there is alcohol in the minor's system, the minor can be arrested and their vehicle can be towed. If the minor's breath or blood test shows alcohol, the driver's license can be suspended for 60 days for the first offense. A second offense can result in a 120-day license suspension and a third offense carries 180-day suspension.
If a minor refuses to submit a breath, blood, or urine test, the minor's license can be suspended for 180 days, even if they were totally sober.
Penalties for DUIA by a Minor Under 17
A first offense DUI by a minor under age 17 is a Class C Misdemeanor. The penalties include a fine of up to $500, 20 to 40 hours of community service, and a license suspension for 60-180 days. An alcohol awareness course may also be required for the minor and the minor's parent.
A second offense carries a fine of up to $500, up to 60 hours of community service, a license suspension for 120 days to 2 years, and attendance in an alcohol awareness course.
Penalties for DUIA by a Minor Age 17 to 20
A DWI by a minor aged 17 to 20 is a Class B Misdemeanor. The penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, confinement in jail from 72 hours to 180 days, and a 1-year license suspension. A driver may be eligible for an ignition interlock device (IID) and have the license suspension reduced to 90 days with the IID installed.
A second offense is a Class A Misdemeanor. Penalties for a second offense can include up to $4,000 in fines, 30 days to one year in jail, and a suspended license for 180 days to 18 months. A 3rd offense is a felony DWI, with imprisonment from 2 to 10 years, a fine of up to $10,000, and a suspended license for 180 days to 2 years.
Minor in Possession
Even if a minor is not driving, being in possession of alcohol is a criminal offense. In Texas, a minor in possession of an alcoholic beverage is a Class C Misdemeanor. The penalties for a first offense include a fine of up to $500, 8 to 12 hours of community service, a 30-day license suspension, and mandatory attendance in an alcohol awareness course.
Other non-driving alcohol-related offenses by minors include:
- Purchasing or attempting to purchase alcohol,
- Falsely identifying as 21 years of age or older to a person selling or serving alcohol, or
- Consuming an alcoholic beverage.
Furnishing Alcohol to Minors
Adults who furnish alcohol to a minor can face even more serious charges than minors. Purchasing or furnishing an alcoholic beverage to a minor is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000, confinement in jail for up to 1 year. Selling alcohol to a minor is also punishable by confinement in jail for up to a year and a $4,000 fine.
Underage Texas DWI Lawyer
An experienced Texas DWI defense attorney can help you build a defense that gives you the best shot at a favorable outcome, including keeping your license and avoiding a criminal record.
If you've been charged with a DUIA by a minor in Odessa, Texas, the Law Office of E. Jason Leach, PLLC is here to fight for you. E. Jason Leach is a board-certified criminal defense attorney that has dedicated his law practice to defending the accused. To set up a free consultation contact the Law Office of E. Jason Leach today at (432) 552-7000.