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“Zero Tolerance”: When Minors Are Deemed Under the Influence in Texas

 Posted on March 28, 2024 in Uncategorized

Houston Drunk Driving Defense AttorneyFor adults, Texas alcohol-related law is, at its core, focused on safety: we do not want anyone harmed because of someone's use of alcohol. A person may be charged with “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) if he or she has been driving on a public road and has consumed so much alcohol (or another substance) that the person no longer has the normal use of his or her mental or physical faculties. Intoxication is presumed if a person has a breath or blood concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above. A minor who is charged with underage DWI may face more serious consequences and needs an experienced Houston, TX criminal defense attorney

What is Different About DWI for Minors in Texas?

For minors under the age of 21, Texas lawmakers had a broader prevention goal in mind: they wanted to stop minors from using alcohol in the first place. Therefore, the relevant laws for minors intend to prevent them from using alcohol in the first place. Collectively, these resulting statutes are referred to as Texas's “zero tolerance” laws. 

Understanding Zero Tolerance Laws

Under Texas state law, minors can be charged with a criminal offense if they have consumed any alcohol, no matter how small the amount. "Any detectable amount" can lead to charges. Minors do not have to be impaired by their use of alcohol before being arrested, and there is no BAC that is considered allowable. Those under 21 years old can be charged with a BAC of 0.0 percent. Similarly, minors are barred from purchasing or possessing alcohol. Many of us started consuming alcohol before we were of legal age. This is a natural curiosity and laws do not necessarily prevent underage consumption.

The law also includes separate offenses if a minor attempts to consume, purchase, or possess alcohol. If a minor uses a fake ID, or tries to get someone to buy a beer for him or her, those are violations of the law, even if the minor is unsuccessful in his or her attempt.

It is important to realize that these alcohol offenses are unrelated to driving. Minors may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, regardless of the location or activity. They could be passengers in a car, walking in a park, or even sitting on their front stoop. Note that there is one exception here: a minor is allowed to consume alcohol if he or she is under the visible supervision of a parent, legal guardian, or spouse.

The good news is that a citation or an arrest for an underage person does not mean it is a hopeless legal situation. There is a lot an experienced and seasoned DWI attorney can do to help.

Contact a Harris County, TX DWI Lawyer

Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. is highly experienced in defending minors with underage DWI and other alcohol offenses. Our skilled Houston, TX underage DWI attorneys will do all we can to help minors who have been arrested for alcohol crimes. Attorney Doug Murphy serves on the Board of Regents for the National College for DUI Defense due to his immense experience and knowledge on this topic. Contact us at 713-229-8333 for a free consultation. 

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