Texas has no tolerance for underage drinking and driving. Minors who are found to be in possession of or driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other illicit substances face harsh penalties under the law. You can advise your child accordingly by learning how Texas defines underage DWI and the punishments it metes out for young adults convicted of this offense.

Texas’s Definition of Underage DWI

Texas’s current laws clearly define what constitutes driving while intoxicated by drugs, alcohol, or other illicit substances. The state’s penal code title 10, chapter 49 states that having a blood alcohol content or BAC of 0.08% or higher automatically qualifies a driver for a DWI charge. It further states that a person can be charged with a DWI in Texas if he or she lacks the normal use of his or her physical or mental faculties as the result of consuming drugs, alcohol, or other substances.

The state’s laws likewise express no tolerance for anyone under the age of 21 being in possession of or under the influence of alcohol and drugs. In fact, it is illegal for a minor to operate any kind of motor vehicle including boats and motorcycles after drinking or consuming even the smallest amount of these substances. If they are found with any detectable amount of drugs or alcohol in their systems, they can be convicted of a DWI or DUIA (Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol).

Penalties for Minor DWIs

Texas allows for a host of punishments for minors found guilty of DWI or DUIA. Even first-time offenders can receive any number of penalties under the state’s DWI laws. While a first-time DWI conviction may not lead to jail time, it can result in other punishments like:

  • Civil fines
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Probation
  • Community service

Each subsequent DWI charge can lead to harsher penalties. After the first conviction, a minor who has been found guilty of DWI can be sentenced to jail. However, the precise punishment will depend on the minor’s age and prior driving record.

Also by Texas state law, minors who have been arrested on suspicion of DWI must submit to chemical testing to determine their BAC. If they refuse, they can face penalties. A minor can receive a 180-day suspension of his or her driver’s license for a first offense of refusing a BAC test. A second offense can result in a two-year suspension of driving privileges.

Explanation of Minor DWI Charges and Penalties

Texas has a separate category of charges and punishments for minor DWIs. A driver who is 16 years of age or younger will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for DWI.

A conviction can lead to the teenager receiving a $500 fine and a 60-day driver’s license suspension. He or she may also be required to complete between 20 and 40 hours of community service and also complete a court-mandated alcohol awareness course.

A Class B misdemeanor DWI charge is reserved for drivers between the ages of 17 and 20. A conviction of this charge can lead to a fine of up to $2000 as well as a sentence ranging from 72 hours to 180 days in jail.

The driver can also have his or her license suspended for 90 days to one year. The jail sentence can be reduced to probation if it is the driver’s first DWI offense in Texas.

Why Hire a DWI Attorney?

Given the inflexibility of Texas’s minor in possession of alcohol and drug laws, it would make sense that parents would want to help their children avoid the harshest penalties under the current mandates. They do not want a simple mistake in their children’s youth to haunt them for the rest of their lives. To help them fight the charges against their teenagers, parents may find it best to hire a skilled Texas DWI attorney to take over their child’s case.

In fact, without an attorney representing them, minors and their parents may find it difficult to fight the DWI charges filed by the state. With an attorney’s legal counsel, they can argue to the court that their teen driver would benefit from rehabilitation and alcohol or drug awareness education rather than jail time. They can also prove that their child has a clean prior driving record and poses little to no risk to the community.

Your child’s lawyer will know how to navigate the Texas legal system and use the state’s DWI laws to the case’s advantage. With his or her help, your child could have the charges against him or her dropped or lowered and avoid the harshest penalties like steep fines and jail time.

Texas’s zero-tolerance laws do not permit minors to be in possession or under the influence of alcohol or drugs at any time. If they are caught driving while intoxicated, they could receive severe punishments even for a first-time offense. You can keep your teenager from being convicted and serving time for a minor DWI in Texas by hiring an experienced attorney to represent him or her after your child’s arrest.

Author Bio:

Houston defense lawyer Greg Tsioros provides legal advice and aggressive representation for clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies at both the state and federal level. Mr. Tsioros handles criminal defense cases of any stature – from orders of non-disclosure and expunctions to more serious DWI and drug charges.