While driving while intoxicated is a charge seen nationwide, many states enact more strict laws for those that drink and drive underage. Texas has what is called a “Zero Tolerance” law. In Texas it is illegal for a person under age 21 to operate a motor vehicle in a public place while having any detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system. In 2009, the law was expanded to include watercrafts in addition to motor vehicles.
Implied Consent Offense
In Texas, if someone is arrested for an offense arising out of alleged acts committed while operating a motor vehicle in a public place, or watercraft, while intoxicated, or if the person is a minor and there is any detectable (this could actually be a spoon full of beer) amount of alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle in a public place, that person is deemed to have consented to submit to the taking of one or more specimens of their breath or blood for analysis to determine the alcohol concentration present in the person’s body, or to determine the presence in the person’s body and controlled substance or drug.
Driving while intoxicated and driving while under the influence of alcohol by a minor are implied consent offenses. If arrested for an implied consent offense, the minor is deemed to consent to the testing of their breath or blood to detect alcohol or drugs. Refusal to provide a specimen results in an automatic suspension of one’s driver’s license. For a minor who refuses, the suspension is 120 days for the first refusal, 240 days for the second refusal, and one year for the third.
A minor may request a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the probable cause to stop and arrest, or to contest that there was detectable alcohol in their system.
If charged with driving under the influence of alcohol by a minor (DUIA), a minor faces a Class C misdemeanor for a first offense. The possible penalties include:
- Up to a $500 fine
- 60-day license suspension
- 20-40 hours of community service
- Mandatory alcohol-awareness classes
If age 17 or older at the time of the offense for drinking and driving and the minor’s BAC (blood or breath alcohol concentration) is .08 percent or greater, the penalties are even more severe:
- Up to a $2,000 fine
- 3 to 180 days in jail
- Driver’s license suspension for 90 days up to a year
As you can imagine, for a second or third drinking and driving offense, the penalties get worse. A second offense is still a Class C misdemeanor, but carries the following penalties:
- Fine up to $50
- Attendance at an alcohol awareness class at the judge’s discretion
- 40 to 60 hours of mandatory community service
- License suspension up to 12 months if under age 17
A third offense of DUIA by a minor less than age 17 is referred to as “Delinquent Conduct” under the Family Code. It is punishable by a fine up to $500, 40 to 60 hours community service and license suspension until the minor is 19 years of age, or 365 days, whichever is longer.
A third offense of DUIA by a minor 17 years or older, but still less than age 21 changes to a Class B misdemeanor. The penalties for a Class B misdemeanor are:
- Fine of $500 – $2000
- 40 to 60 hours community service and/or jail time not to exceed 180 days
If you are a minor and have been charged with drinking and driving, whether it is your first offense or a repeated offense, you’ll need an experienced criminal defense attorney to explain your rights and help you through the legal process.