Many teenagers see getting a driver’s license as a rite of passage and a ticket to freedom. They also mistakenly see drinking alcohol in the same light. But children and parent don’t decide what is legally right. The state of Texas makes that choice.
In Texas, it is illegal to drink alcohol with some exceptions until a person is 21 which means that any teen charged with driving under the influence (DUI) is likely to be in a great deal of legal trouble if they are stopped by the police or arrested.
Worse, Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for teenage drivers which means even one drop of alcohol in a teen’s blood systems can lead to a Texas DUI arrest.
Here are some of the laws, legal consequences, financial consequences, and practical considerations for both parents and teenage drivers who are charged with a Texas DUI.
Texas Law On Underage Drinking
In Texas, a minor is anyone under 21 years of age. Teenagers cannot drink in public. A younger person can drink in their home or if a supervising parental member (typically a father or mother) or a guardian consents to the teenager’s drinking in the adult’s presence.
For example, a parent may allow a minor to drink at a family wedding. Adults cannot approve drinking by someone who is a non-family member or someone they do not have legal authority over.
Parents can be held responsible for any injuries suffered by a teenager younger than 18 or caused by the teenager if they let that teenager drink on their property or in their presence and the teenager then drives a vehicle and causes an accident.
Parents can be held liable in some non-driving cases too such as where a teenage causes property damage at a party.
Parents who violate the law can be required to pay up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, and can lose their license for up to 180 days – if convicted.
Minors who possess alcohol can be:
- Required to do community service for between 8 and 40 hours
- Required to pay up to $500 in fines
- Subject to a license suspension of 30 to 180 days
- Required to take a mandatory alcohol-awareness program
- Subsequent offenses for possession of beer, wine, or any alcohol can result in more lengthy driver suspensions. 17-year-olds, for example, can be subject to up to 180 days in jail on a third conviction.
Texas Law On Driving And Drinking While A Minor
Drivers under 21 are held to a much stricter alcohol standard than drivers 21 and over. Any driver with any alcohol found in their blood stream can be charged with a DUI.
For just the first violation, the minor driver, if convicted:
- Will have a Class C Misdemeanor on his/her record and will be fined up to $500
- Will be required to take an alcohol-awareness course
- Will need to do 20 to 40 hours of community service
- Will have his/her driver’s license suspended for 60 days. The minor will not be eligible for a work-license for the first 30 days
For a second conviction, the minor:
- Will have a Class C Misdemeanor and will face up to $500 in fines
- Can be required to take the alcohol awareness program again
- Be required to do between 40 and 60 hours of community service
- Lose his/her license for 120 days, during the first 60 days of which the minor will not be eligible for an occupational license
For a third-time conviction:
- The driver will have a criminal record
- His/her license will be suspended for 180 days without any opportunity for an occupational license
- Minors 17 years and older can faces fines up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
Other Possible Charges
Many minors who consume alcohol may be charged with using a fake identification to buy the alcohol. The parents, if they don’t supervise the minor, can be charged with child endangerment. The minor can be charged with traffic offenses such as speeding or failing to yield.
Many insurance carriers will terminate the insurance policy that covered the minor driver or may decline to renew the insurance policy. If the policy is renewed, it is almost a certainty that the insurance company will substantially increase the insurance premium for three to five years.
In addition, a minor who has a DUI conviction on his/her record may be denied entrance into a college since colleges may ask about their criminal record.
Employers often run background checks to see if an applicant has been convicted of any crime.
The minor may also be required to pay civil damages and restitution for any civil or criminal liability.
How An Experienced Texas DUI Defense Lawyer Can Help
There are defenses to DUI charges. A skilled DUI lawyer can often win an acquittal, have the charges dismissed, or have the charges reduced in a please agreement.
The lawyer can argue that that officer:
- Did not have grounds to stop the minor
- Failed to advise the minor of his/her Constitutional rights
- Failed to conduct a blood or breath test properly
The attorney may also be able to show that the test was invalid because the equipment was not properly validated.
Contact Scott M. Brown And Associates Today
To discuss your Texas DUI charge or your child’s DUI charge, speak with Texas, please call the Texas drunk driving lawyers at Scott M. Brown and Associates by phoning 281-972-4386. We are located in Angleton, League City and Pearland.