A charge of Underage Driving While Intoxicated may be applied to a driver under age 21 who is suspected of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unlike an adult DWI, minors and juveniles are held to a “zero tolerance” standard.
This means that minors and juveniles with any detectable amount of alcohol or drugs in their system may be convicted of DWI in Houston. They do not have to meet the minimum of a .08% blood-alcohol concentration to be convicted.
Legal Penalties for Underage Drinking
The legal consequences for underage drinking and driving are significantly different from adult DWI penalties. In some areas, the consequences for underage drunk driving are less severe than the penalties for an adult DWI conviction. According to the Texas Penal Code, some penalties can include:
- A first offense of underage drunk driving can lead to a driver’s license suspension period of 60 days
- A minor who refuses to provide a blood or breath specimen for testing may face a license suspension of 180 days
- A person aged 16 or under may face a fine of $500
- Minors may also be charged with consumption of alcohol by a minor or purchase of alcohol by a minor
Underage DWI Legal Defenses
Minors and juveniles who are charged with drunk driving under 21 in Texas may have more legal defense options than adults. For example, first and second-time underage drunk driving offenders are eligible for deferred disposition.
This means that a judge can choose to offer the defendant the opportunity to complete a period of community supervision in lieu of criminal probation or jail time. During this period, the defendant may have to check in with a supervising officer, attend alcohol education classes and perform community service.
Dropped Charges for Minor DWI
If, at the end of the supervision period, all requirements have been successfully completed, the charges may be dropped in Houston. This could be especially advantageous for first-time underage DWI offenders because they have the ability to expunge their criminal record. If the judge agrees and the defendant gets no more alcohol-related offenses before their 21st birthday, the underage drinking and driving charge may be completely expunged.