Concerning alcohol-related offenses, a minor is a person under 21 years of age. If a minor is pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, as with someone 21 years of age or older, they could get a DWI charge. Additionally, a conviction could result in similar penalties, including incarceration, fines, and driver’s license suspension. Yet, unlike those 21 years of age and older, minors also run the risk of getting a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, levied when a minor has any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. Although the penalties for the offense are not as steep as those for a DWI, they are still severe. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer to challenge accusations and seek to avoid or minimize punishments may be an effective course of action.
Defining a DWI in Texas
A person is considered to be driving while intoxicated in two instances. The first is when their normal faculties are impaired because the individual consumed alcohol and/or drugs. Impairment can include decreased judgment and poor motor skills.
The second instance when someone is considered intoxicated is when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or higher. Because alcohol affects people differently, a BAC at or above this level does not necessarily mean that the person is impaired and can’t drive safely. Still, the law presumes that someone is intoxicated when their BAC reaches or exceeds the legal limit.
The DWI Law Applies to Minors
Driving under the influence charges aren’t reserved only for those 21 years of age or older. Minors can also face charges if they are found operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher or if their ability to drive is impaired due to alcohol consumption.
A minor accused of a DWI can receive severe punishments if convicted. The penalties imposed upon a person 21 years or older can also apply to someone under 21.
Regardless of age, a first-time DWI violation is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by the following:
- A jail term between 72 hours and 180 days
- A fine of up to $2,000
- Driver’s license suspension for up to 1 year
Additionally, if aggravating factors are present in the minor’s case, they may be subject to more stringent punishments, as would anyone 21 and over. For instance, if the minor had a BAC of 0.15 or more at the time of the offense, they could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and face a fine of not more than $4,000 and confinement for up to 1 year.
Minors Can Be Charged with DUIs
People under 21 years of age are not legally allowed to drink alcohol. While a minor can get a DWI for having a BAC of 0.08 or more, they can also face charges for driving under the influence (DUI) if their alcohol concentration is below that level.
Texas has a Zero-Tolerance Law concerning minors drinking and driving. If a police officer suspects that a person under 21 years of age has any amount of alcohol in their system, the officer can arrest and detain the individual. It also does not matter if the minor were impaired at the time.
A first-time DUI can result in the following penalties:
- A fine of up to $500
- Driver’s license suspension for 60 days
- Community service for 20 to 40 hours
- Completion of an alcohol awareness class
Minors Have Similar Legal Requirements and Rights
If a minor is pulled over for a DWI or DUI, like a person 21 years of age or older, they are considered to have automatically given their consent to provide a blood or breath specimen for analysis. The individual can refuse to participate in the chemical test, but they can face sanctions for doing so. A first-time refusal can result in a driver’s license suspension for 180 days.
The minor has the right to request an administrative license revocation hearing to contest the suspension of their driving privileges. They must contact the Department of Public Safety within 15 days of receiving a notice os suspension.
Also, minors have the right to challenge their DWI or DUI charge and can have an attorney represent them throughout their cases.
Contact a Lawyer Today
If you or your child has been accused of an alcohol-related driving offense, an attorney can be instrumental in building your defense. They can review the facts to identify holes in the prosecutor’s arguments.
Get started on your Dallas case by calling Deandra Grant Law at (214) 225-7117 or submitting an online contact form today.