Minors and DWI Offenses in Houston

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is, in Texas, the law reserved for minors who drive while intoxicated. A minors is defined as any person under the age of 21 years old. Therefore, if you are 21 or older and are arrested for driving while intoxicated, you will be charged with a DWI offense, not DUI. Texas applies a zero-tolerance policy to drivers who are under the age of 21, and this policy states that "any detectable amount of alcohol" in a minor's system while operating a motor vehicle is driving under the influence, a criminal offense with consequences.

Drinking and Driving Offenses & Their Consequences

In Texas, there is a zero tolerance policy towards minors drinking alcohol and using drugs, especially while driving a motor vehicle. A DUI charge is typically reserved for minors, persons below the age of 21 years, but minors aged 17 - 21 years old can also be charged with adult DWI. Both DUIs and DWIs have serious consequences for minors, and they increase with multiple convictions within a 5 year period.

DUI Offenses and Penalties

If you are under the age of 18, the minor's parent(s) or guardian(s) is required to be present with the minor at each court appearance, regardless if a lawyer has been retained or not. All DUI offenses are misdemeanors. Each offense has specific minimum and maximum penalties, but incarceration is usually not an option as a penalty.

Offense

Fines

Community Service

Driver's License Suspension

Refusal & Driver's License Suspension

1st Offense

Class C (M)

Up to $500

20 - 40 hours

60 -180 days

180 days

2nd Offense Class C (M)

Up to $500

40 - 60 hours

120 days - 2 years

2 years

3rd Offense

Up to $2000

40 - 60 hours

180 days - 2 years

2 years

In addition, attendance in an alcohol awareness course is mandatory for first- and second-time offenders. If the minor is under 18 years old, the parent(s) or guardian(s) may be compelled to attend the course with the minor.

DWI Offenses and Penalties

If the minor is between the ages of 17 and 21 years old, then he/she can be charged as an adult. As such, the penalties are much more severe and include incarceration. 

Offense

Fines

Incarceration                 

Driver's License Suspension

Refusal & Driver's License Suspension                 

1st Offense

Class B (M)

Up to $2,000

72 hours - 180 days

1 year

(but could be reduced to 90 days if court orders community service and an IID)

180 days

2nd Offense Class A (M)

Up to $4,000

30 days - 1 year

180 days - 18 months

2 years

3rd or Subsequent Offenses

Felony (3rd Degree)

Up to $10,000

2 - 10 years

180 days - 2 years

2 years

Other penalties can be added onto the convicted DWI minor offender's sentence, including probation and educational classes.

Minors & Non-Driving Alcohol-Related Offenses

The zero tolerance policy in Texas is not applied to minors and driving while drinking, but it is applied to all alcohol-related activity. It is illegal for a minor to purchase, attempt to purchase, consume, or possess an alcoholic beverage. It is illegal for a minor to falsely identify him or herself as 21 years or older to a person who is either selling or serving alcoholic beverages. It is also illegal for a minor to be intoxicated in the public.

The penalty for non-driving alcohol-related offenses are similar to DUI penalties.

Offense

Fines

Community Service

Driver's License Suspension

Alcohol Awareness Course

1st Offense

Class C (M)

Up to $500

8 - 12 hours

30 days

Yes

2nd Offense

Class C (M)

Up to $500

20 - 40 hours

60 days

Yes

3rd Offense

(10-17 years old)

Up to $500

20 - 40 hours

60 days

 

3rd Offense

(17-21 years old)

Class B (M)

A fine of $250 - $2,000

40 - 60 hours

180 days

 

 

Implied Consent

If you are driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs, a police officer can request a breath test without your parents' presence. If you refuse, a warrant can and likely will be requested for a blood test. In Texas, there are also “no refusal” weekends, and during these weekends judges remain on-call to issue warrants without delay for this very reason. According to Texas' implied consent law, regardless of your age, you consent to the test when you drive the car.

Refusal of Chemical Test

If you are a minor, like any other driver, you can refuse a breath or blood test upon its request by a law enforcement officer. If you do so, the officer will likely request a warrant for a blood test, arrest you, and hold you in jail until either bond is posted or appearance before a magistrate or juvenile court judge. In addition, your driving privileges will be affected worse than if you had given the test:

  • First DUI Offense: driving privileges will be suspended for 180 days.
  • No Driver's License: Texas will not issue a driver's license until the same period for the suspension has expired.
  • Repeat Offender: driving privileges will be suspended for 2 years.

Zero Tolerance

If your breath test indicates less than 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC), the legal limit for persons aged 21 and older, you will still have your driving privileges suspended for at least 60 days. Texas is a zero tolerance state, and any indication of alcohol or drugs will result in that suspension.

DWI Conviction for Minors

Minors who are aged 17 - 21 can be charged with drinking while driving as an adult. As such, the consequences and adult faces, the minor can face, too. This means more jail time and more fines, among other possible penalties. It also means, if convicted, a judge must suspend the minor's driving privileges for at least 90 days and require an ignition interlock device as a condition of probation, and if the judge fails to penalize the minor with these two requirements, DPS will automatically suspend the minor's license for one year.

Collateral Damages

As a minor and convicted of a DUI or DWI, the criminal and administrative penalties are hard enough, but there are yet other consequences to keep in mind.

  1. Education. If you intend to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree, your financial aid and/or scholarships can be affected by a DUI conviction. If you want housing on campus, that too can be affected negatively, depending on the school and its policies.
  2. Job/Career. If you are applying for jobs, then a DUI conviction can be problematic with regard to: (1) your background check; and (2) the company's reputation. Many companies conduct background checks or require you to disclose any criminal convictions. A DUI conviction matters because it can become a question of trustworthiness and liability for the company.
  3. Auto Insurance. Your auto insurance premiums are likely to increase because you are now deemed a high risk.

Administrative Hearing

If you have been charged with a DUI, then there is another process separate from the criminal process: the administrative process. Though the administrative process is prompted by the charge of DUI, the outcome of it is independent of the criminal process. The Texas Department of Public Safety will suspend your driver's license, and you have 15 days from the date of your DUI charge to request a hearing to prevent that suspension. If you do not request a hearing, the DPS will suspend your license for a minimum of 60 days.

The Importance of an Experienced DWI/DUI Attorney

It is important that you retain an experienced DWI/DUI attorney to represent your case. Given the consequences, including the criminal, civil penalties, and the collateral consequences, there is a lot at stake for a person just beginning adulthood.

An experienced attorney who knows not just the relevant laws, but the court process, prosecutors, and judges, will be key to either having a charge reduced or dismissed. As a minor, your attorney will identify what the best possible options and outcomes are for you, and these could include:

  • Dismissal, the best possible outcome;
  • Deferred adjudication (possibly available for first- and second-time offenders; and/or
  • Plea deal for lesser charge(s).

If you are convicted, your attorney can also help you have the conviction expunged from your permanent record, but this option is only available for first offenses.

At Doug Murphy Law Firm, we know the law and we know the court systems, prosecutors, and judges. We also know that a DUI or DWI conviction attached to a minor's résumé can be devastating and have real consequences for the future, and that's why we are prepared to do whatever it takes. We have the resources. We have the skills. And we have a board certified DWI attorney with a reputation and proven track record of obtaining outstanding results. Contact Doug Murphy today for a consultation.

Contact Us Today

If you are facing DWI or other criminal charges in Texas, contact our office today to discuss your case, so we can begin working on your defense. Please provide only your personal email and cell phone number so that we can immediately and confidentially communicate with you.

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