In the State of Texas, as a minor, you can be charged as an adult for drug and alcohol-related offenses. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) penalties as an adult charge can have serious consequences, and as an underage driver, you would share these consequences. The State of Texas has established zero tolerance for minors who are found to have committed any alcohol-related offenses, and this includes DWI.
Minors Under Texas Law
Texas considers anyone under 21 years of age to be a minor. As a minor, you cannot purchase, attempt to purchase, or have alcohol in your possession. If a minor has even a small amount of detectable alcohol in their system while they are operating a motorized vehicle, they can be arrested for DWI.
If a police officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause, they can legally stop any vehicle. Whether an adult is driving, or a minor, the police officer has the right to ask the driver to perform a field sobriety test. There are several tests possible, and the officer can ask for one or all of them to be completed. If the officer feels there is even a slight chance the minor has alcohol in their system, they can:
- Arrest the minor and have their vehicle towed
- Handcuff the minor and escort them to the police station where they will be given the opportunity to complete a breath test
- Escort them to the hospital or local clinic for a blood test. If there has been a fatality or any injury has occurred, the officer can require these tests.
When a minor is arrested by a Texas Law Officer, for operating a watercraft or motor vehicle with ANY amount of alcohol in their system, they automatically consent to give one or more specimens of blood or breath. This rule falls under the ‘Implied Consent Law,’ and the samples are analyzed to check the alcohol concentration in their system. It is also used to see if there is any presence of a controlled substance or dangerous drug in the minor’s body.
Minors Refusing Specimen Sample for Underage DWI Charge
If a minor refuses to provide a specimen sample, their driver's license is automatically suspended. Refusal of this specimen can also mean the minor is placed in jail until a bond is posted, or they appear before a Juvenile Court Judge. Their driver's license can be suspended, or their driving privileges denied for up to 180 days on the first refusal, and up to two years for second or subsequent refusals.
Penalties for Underage DWI
Penalties for minors between the ages of 17 and 21 include:
- Class B Misdemeanor- 1st Offense
A fine can be charged up to $2,000 with confinement in jail from 72 to 180 days. The minor will have their license suspended for up to one year. If the court requests community service, the license suspension could be reduced to ninety days.
- Class A Misdemeanor- 2nd Offense
A second offense for underage DWI has you facing a fine up to $4,000 and confinement in jail from 30 days to one year. Your driver's license suspension will be from 180 days to 18 months.
- Felony of the Third Degree- 3rd or Subsequent Offense
When charged with a 3rd underage DWI charge, you are facing a fine up to $10,000 as well as confinement in a penitentiary from two to ten years, along with a driver’s license suspension from 180 days to two years.
- A Felony of the Third Degree (Intoxication Assault)
A Felony of the Third Degree- Intoxication Assault, includes a fine up to $10,000 along with a confinement sentence in a state penitentiary from two to ten years. Your driver's license would be suspended from 180 days to two years.
- A Felony of the Second Degree (Intoxication Manslaughter)
When convicted of a Felony of the Second Degree- Intoxication Manslaughter, there is a fine up to $10,000 along with a state penitentiary sentence from two to twenty years. Your driver's license would be suspended from 180 days to two years.
Difference Between Texas Underage DUI and Underage DWI
The State of Texas treats an underaged driver the same as an adult when arrested for drinking and operating a motor vehicle. The two terms - DUI and DWI are often used interchangeably; however, they do not have the same meaning under the law.
DUI means a person has been driving under the influence, while DWI means the driver has been operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Texas makes a clear distinction between these two offenses, and regardless of which one you are charged with, it is time to contact a DWI Defense Lawyer.
Legally, DWI means you have been ‘driving while intoxicated’ and penalties for this charge are filed under Penal Code 49.04. This Texas Penal Code states a person is considered intoxicated in a public place while they are driving a motor vehicle. The term ‘intoxicated’ is when you do not have a reasonable level of mental or physical capabilities because you have consumed too much alcohol or a dangerous drug. It is also considered a DWI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or more. Texas law is clear when it comes to charging DWI even if you are a minor and operating a vehicle while in a state of intoxication.
A DUI under Texas law brings totally different charges. An individual, adult or minor, can be charged with DUI even if their BAC is under the legal limit of .08. A level can be anywhere from .05 to .07 for an arrest to be made for a minor. A minor can also be arrested for having any detectable amount of alcohol or an illegal impairing agent present, which is noticeably impairing them.
Zero Tolerance Law for Underage DWI
Every year there are more than 3,000 teenagers killed in drunk driving accidents. The rate of alcohol-related vehicle accidents is higher among drivers between the ages of 16 to 20 than it is for adults. Being inexperienced with the effects of alcohol contributes to a lot of these accidents as they take more risks and use less caution.
For an underage individual to put themselves behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol puts them, their passengers, and anyone they encounter on the roadways in grave danger. For this reason, Texas, along with most other states, have implemented stringent laws and penalties for underage DWI.
Zero tolerance laws were introduced in the 80s due to the high level of teenage drunk driving deaths and injuries occurring across the country. This issue became so severe; the federal government offered financial incentives to states who put the zero-tolerance laws into their government practice.
Zero tolerance laws are made up of two components. One portion of this law is illegal per se, which is in and of itself and means a minor caught driving while intoxicated with alcohol in their system, can be arrested immediately. The second component is the administrative per se, which states that if the minor is caught with any level of alcohol in their system, they will lose their license by an automatic suspension.
Texas Zero Tolerance means a minor can have no trace of alcohol in their system. Any detectable amount of alcohol in an underage driver is illegal. Zero tolerance laws have not been a favorite by everyone as they feel they unfairly punish minors. These laws have been effective; however, and the rate of teenage injuries and deaths related to vehicle accidents has gone down.
In Texas, if an officer is able to detect the odor of alcohol on a minor’s breath, it is enough to charge them with DWI. The charge can be filed even without blood alcohol testing. The consequences of a DWI are severe, and if you are a minor and have consumed any amount of alcohol, you need to get a designated driver. If this option was not used and you have been charged with underage DWI, contact a DWI Defense Lawyer immediately.
Being Charged for Underage DWI
DWIs apply to both adults and minors, and you can be arrested for consuming drugs or alcohol, even if the drugs are prescription medications. Taking the breath test does not change the fact that you can be charged with a DWI.
DWIs are proven in three different tests:
- Visible display that you do not have reasonable mental faculties
- Obvious signs you do not have logical, physical faculties because of having consumed drugs or alcohol
- Scoring a .08 or more with your BAC (blood alcohol content) test
Once you are arrested, the police officer will ask you to take a breath or blood test. At this point, you are under arrest, and passing the test is not going to allow you to leave. Choosing to take the test or not is an important decision. If you were asked to blow into a device at the time you were stopped, that reading is not going to be admissible in court. The fact that you blew into the PBT (portable breath test) plays no importance in a DWI trial.
You can refuse to take the blood or breath test at the station when you arrive, and the officer asks you to choose one or the other. There could be consequences either way for taking or not taking the test. At this point, you do not have the right to an attorney before deciding to take the test, so you should know beforehand what you could be facing.
- Consequences for Refusing to take Blood or Breath Test
If you refuse to take a blood or breath test, the DPS can attempt to suspend your driving privileges. This suspension could be up to 180 days even if you have never had DWI offense previously. If you have a DWI offense on your record or refused to take a breath test earlier, the suspension could be up to two years.
- Consequences for Taking the Blood or Breath Test
If you take the test and it reveals you have an alcohol concentration of .08 or more, you will lose your driving privileges for ninety days. This loss happens even with your first DWI offense. If you have a DWI offense on your record, you could lose your license for up to one year. Taking this test now gives the State evidence to use in convicting you of the DWI. Another fact to consider is; passing this test does not mean you will not be charged and convicted of DWI.
- Warrants for DWI Blood Draws
Some states have implemented new trends in DWI law. Police are now obtaining warrants to draw your blood. A judge would have to sign an authorization in order for the police to conduct the test.
Losing Your Driving Privileges with DWI Charge
A driver’s license is incredibly important these days, and your Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer understands how you need this to get around the city. When a minor is arrested for DWI, the suspension of their driver’s license is a separate case from the DWI charges. The DPS (Department of Public Safety) automatically suspends your permission to drive, and you cannot retrieve it without an ALR hearing.
Even before the criminal charges are addressed on your underage DWI, your license is suspended. This process is called an ALR in Texas, (Administrative License Revocation), and if you want to protect your driving rights, you have to act fast. Fifteen days from the day of your arrest, you have to request an ALR hearing. If the hearing is not requested, you automatically lose your driving privileges on the 40th day after your DWI arrest. You will need to contact Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer and ensure your request for the ALR hearing is filed in time.
Underage BWI Charge
Facing a conviction for underage BWI (boating while intoxicated) is just as serious for a minor as they are for an adult and penalties are just as severe as for an underage DWI. Some people fail to realize it is just as illegal to operate a watercraft vehicle while intoxicated as it is to operate a motorized vehicle on the roadways while intoxicated.
The penalties for an underage BWI are the same as found under Penal Code for DWI. For a first offense, the government will have to prove you have lost reasonable use of your mental or physical faculties. This loss has to be a result of alcohol consumption; you have any level of BAC or detectable trace of alcohol on your breath or presence.
Defense for Underage BWI Charge
There are unique challenges present when having to perform a field sobriety test after having been in a boat on the water. ‘Sealegs’ is a real thing for people, even minors, after they have been in a boat for an extended time. Having sea legs can affect your performance and accuracy when trying to stand on one leg, walk a straight line, or any of the sobriety field tests.
There are separate tests designed by the National Transportation Safety Administration, which include different requirements in the field sobriety tests when an individual has been on a boat. Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer knows these differences and will ensure you have been given the proper testing when arrested.
Fighting Underage DWI Intoxication Assualt Charges
If you’ve been arrested for intoxication assault, also known as underage DWI Intoxication Assault, it is extremely important to your future that you seek qualified legal representation from Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer.
According to Texas law, if as part of your arrest for a DWI charge, you are charged with seriously injuring another person, then the charges will be filed as intoxication assault. Serious bodily injury under the law is defined as an injury that results in extensive impairment or loss of function of any limb, organ, or involved reasonable risk of death. It does not make any difference if the injured person was a pedestrian, passenger in your vehicle, or a passenger in another car. The state will press charges regardless of the circumstances when alcohol, a motorized vehicle, and a minor are involved.
This charge will be considered a third-degree felony, and because of the DWI attached to your charges, you could be tried as an adult. Is this happens, you are facing serious sentencing.
You need strong legal support for these charges. As you face criminal charges associated with this crime, the injured driver is most likely seeking aggressive representation for filing a civil lawsuit. With the severe penalties you are facing with these charges, you need to contact Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer as soon as possible to plan your defense strategy.
Defense for an Underage DWI with Child Passenger Charges
The legislature in Texas has passed strict laws related to DWI. In 2003 they imposed enhanced punishments for DWI with a child passenger. The definition of a child is anyone under the age of 15. Because DWI charges for a minor are the same as for an adult, you are facing severe penalties and sentencing.
Texas Penal Code 49.045 Chapter 12 states an arrest for DWI with a child in the vehicle is an automatic license suspension up to 180 days. There will also be a fine of up to $10,000, and because underage DWI is charged the same as an adult, you may be facing jail or juvenile detention time.
Texas Juvenile DWI
Texas exercises zero-tolerance laws. As a juvenile, if you are pulled over for suspected DWI, the officer can arrest you for even the smallest amount of alcohol in your system. There are no ‘legal limits’ for a minor. If you have no record of a previous conviction for DWI, you will be required to perform community service from twenty to forty hours. If you have a prior conviction, you will have to complete at least forty hours of service. Community service hours are required to relate to education regarding the prevention and misuse of alcohol.
As a juvenile DWI offender, you will be required to complete an alcohol awareness program, which has been approved by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. This program must be enrolled within ninety days of your arrest. Your parents may also be asked to join you in these classes. If you fail to complete the course, you risk the suspension of your license for an additional six months to one year.
If you are convicted of DWI under Texas Penal Code 521.342, you will automatically lose your license for one year. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, you will have your driving privileges suspended for up to 180 days. If anytime within the past ten years, you have refused a test, you can lose your license for up to two years.
Consequences of Underage DWI Convictions
You are not only facing harsh criminal and civil penalties when convicted of an underage DWI, but you will also face grave social consequences. A minor who has been convicted of a DWI has to disclose this information on their college applications. This information could make a difference in whether or not you are allowed to get into college. If it doesn’t prevent your entrance, it will undoubtedly be a strike against you.
Some states will not allow students convicted of a DWI to continue their majors in education or pre-law. It can also be challenging for a minor to locate employment with a DWI conviction on their criminal history. The DWI may not bar you from employment opportunities, but it can sway an employer’s decision when considering you as a potential candidate for a position. A DWI conviction can remain on your record well into adulthood.
If a civil judgment was filed on your case, it can last years, which means your future wages could be garnished to settle this case. As a teenager, you could face social stigma, and if you are incarcerated, it could mean a loss of educational opportunities or loss of employment. All of these situations have a significant impact on your future. You need experienced legal representation to protect that future and your rights.
Find Help Near Me for an Underage DWI
Punishment for underage DWI convictions is very tough. As a minor, you have the same rights in court and the legal system as an adult has. You need strong legal defense against these charges to protect yourself against penalties and life consequences. Call the Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer today at 817-470-2128 and discuss your legal options.