What are the Penalties for Underage Drinking and Driving in Houston?

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Texas, like every other state, has laws in place to prevent drinking and driving. There are specific penalties in place to deter underage drinking and driving. There is a good reason for this.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. In about 25% of those crashes, the underage driver was drinking alcohol. Furthermore, in 2017, drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 accounted for 42 percent of drivers involved in fatal alcohol-related crashes.

As is the case elsewhere in the country, the legal drinking age is 21 in Houston and throughout Texas.  Texas has an “implied consent” law in place. This means motorists, including those who are underage, must submit to blood or breath test once lawfully arrested. Minors who refuse the test can be jailed until they post bond or appear before a juvenile court judge. The refusal results in the suspension of their driver’s license for 180 days.

How a Houston DWI Lawyer Explains the Zero-Tolerance Approach

An individual of any age can be found guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI) if they operate a motor vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more
  • without the normal use of their physical or mental faculties because they used alcohol or drugs

However, Texas also has specific laws which apply only to drivers who are minors.

Since it is unlawful for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol, Texas takes a zero-tolerance approach to underage drivers. Minors caught with any amount of alcohol in their system can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUIA). They don’t have to be actually intoxicated and their BAC can be well below .08%. Drivers under 21 who meet the DWI criteria can be charged and convicted for both DUIA and DWI.

Penalties for Underage Drinking and Driving Which DWI Attorneys in Houston Discuss with Clients

The punishment for receiving a DUIA varies depending on the age of the driver. For a motorist who is under 17 years old, DUIA is a Class C misdemeanor. A first conviction results in:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • A minimum 60-day license suspension
  • 20 to 40 hours of community service
  • Participation in an Alcohol Awareness Course for the minor and possibly the parent

For a driver between the ages of 17 and 20, DUIA is Class B misdemeanor. The penalties on conviction vary depending on whether they had prior infractions. Generally, a Class B DUIA is punishable by:

  • $2,000 in fines
  • 72 hours to 180 days in jail
  • 1-year license suspension at a minimum

The suspension may be reduced to 90 days when combined with the use of an ignition interlock device and community supervision.

It is important to note that minors can get their license suspended even if they weren’t driving. That’s because it’s illegal for them to even be in possession of alcohol. In Texas, minors convicted of possession of alcohol for the first time face:

  • A 30 to 180-day driver’s license suspension
  • A fine of up to $500
  • 8 to 40 hours of community service
  • Mandatory alcohol awareness classes

Any quantity of wine, beer or liquor can lead to these penalties. A second or subsequent offense can lead to the suspension of their driver’s license for 60 to 180 days.

Minors who have a BAC above 0.08 percent face penalties for DWI.  For a BAC under .15%, these are:

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • A jail sentence of 3 days to 180 days
  • A driver’s license suspension of 90 to 365 days

If their BAC is .15% or more, the fine increases to a maximum of $4,000. The jail time increases to one year.

Contact Eddington & Worley Today for Assistance with Underage DWI or DUIA Charges

If you or your child has been charged with drinking and driving, you need a Houston DWI attorney. DUIA or DWI charges should not be taken lightly. Sometimes officers make mistakes or file false charges so you or your teen may very well be innocent. If this is the case, you don’t want an undeserved charge on your record. Our attorneys at Eddington &Worley will review your case and fight to clear your name is false charges laid against you. You shouldn’t try to fight the charge alone.

If the charges are not unfounded, we will work to help you get the second chance you deserve. Sometimes young people take a sip or two of beer or wine and then get behind the wheel. We don’t believe their bad judgment should follow them for the rest of their life.  If you want an ally who will fight for you or your teenager, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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