If you or a loved one has been charged with underage DUI in Houston, you need an experienced, aggressive juvenile DUI lawyer. The attorneys at Blass Law have defended juveniles accused of underage drinking and driving in the Harris County and Houston area court systems and we have the experience to get you the best possible outcome. Do not settle when your entire future is at stake. Call Blass Law or request a confidential consultation today!
DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence) are often used interchangeably, but there is a significant difference in in the eyes of the law in Texas. Texas DWI law describes intoxication or impairment while driving as a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08 or above. A person 21 years of age or older who is accused of driving with a BAC of .08 will be charged with a DWI but will not face charges if their BAC is less than .08.
However, a minor under the age of 21 accused of having ANY amount of alcohol while driving will face a DUI charge. Under these circumstances, prosecutors do not need to show that the driver was intoxicated or impaired, only that the driver had any amount of alcohol in their system. It may seem counterintuitive, but an underage person with a just whiff of alcohol on their breath could face a more stringent legal battle than a driver who fails a breathalyzer.
Anti-drunk driving campaigns and statistics published by organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) tend to heighten the scrutiny of underage drivers. According to MADD, one out of every six teenagers binge drink and 25 percent of underage car accident fatalities involve alcohol. Those are potent statistics, and that’s why police are highly motivated to pull juveniles over and check for alcohol.
In Texas, a person can be accused and potentially charged with DWI if their BAC is .08 percent or higher. Texas operates under a stringent “zero tolerance” law. Sobering statistics reveal a pandemic of underage car crash fatalities, even though drinking under the age of 21 years old is illegal.
If you are driving and under 21 years old, even the slightest trace of alcohol can result in an arrest. Furthermore, if a person under 21 is accused of driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, they can face DUI AND DWI charges.
While Texas has harsh penalties for adult DWI convictions, the consequences for minors are designed to deter future alcohol abuse. In addition to suspending a minor’s license, a DUI conviction on your record can have lasting consequences that prevent you from obtaining employment or getting into some colleges and universities. DWI offenses rarely meet the criteria for record expunction.
Drivers under the age of 17 face different penalties than older underage drivers if convicted of a DUI in Texas.
When a person under 21, but at least 17 years of age is charged with driving under the influence in Texas, the crime class changes from a juvenile DUI to a DWI. This seemingly small difference in age increases possible penalties, fines, and incarceration for the accused.
The zero tolerance policy in Texas does not stop at consumption, it also includes possession. If you’re accused of having alcohol in your possession and under the age of 21, you will likely be charged with Minor in Possession (MIP charges). People under 21 years old cannot legally purchase alcohol and charges may come into play during transportation or possession. If you are under 21 years old and pulled over with alcohol in the vehicle, the penalties are even more severe and could include the following.
Texas operates under the implied consent standard. The reasoning follows that people who accepted the privilege of a driver’s license have already consented to submit to a BAC test. While there are consequences for refusing to submit to a BAC test, you can refuse. Given the state’s zero tolerance policy, underage drivers who refuse a test could be arrested and held in jail until they go before a judge or post bail. Refusal can also result in an automatic 180-day suspension of driving privileges. If the police obtain a warrant for blood for a BAC test, it is best to comply and submit to the test.
Although the zero tolerance laws targeting underage drivers may seem unequal, it’s crucial for juvenile drivers to remember that you enjoy the same rights as those over 21 years old. That means that law enforcement officials must adhere to the same standards when making a traffic stop or an arrest. Law enforcement officials are required to have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is taking place. These are commonly cited reasons for traffic stops in drunk driving and DUI cases.
It’s not uncommon for overzealous police officers to pull young drivers over and then begin an investigation into their behavior. Law enforcement officials are trained to look for telltale signs of alcohol use such as exaggerated behavior, impacted motor skills, and relaxed muscle tone among others. Such indicators may prompt an officer to ask you to submit to a field sobriety test.
Unfortunately, overzealous officers sometimes exceed their authority and wrongfully arrest underage drivers. Law enforcement officials are expected to meet specific standards, and there are numerous legal hurdles between the initial traffic stop and the end of your DUI case. It’s also important to keep in mind that being charged with a juvenile DUI offense does not mean law enforcement will necessarily be able to secure a conviction.
A juvenile DUI conviction can negatively impact a Texan’s life long after turning 18 or 21 years old. A DUI conviction remains on your driving record for up to 10 years and can negatively impact your ability to get a job or admission to college. Repeat convictions within a decade can result in significantly harsher penalties and hefty fines. That’s why it’s imperative juveniles charged with a DUI allegation work with an experienced juvenile DUI lawyer, like the attorneys at Blass Law. We have the experience and knowledge to mount a strong legal defense and get the best possible outcome for your case. Our arsenal of strong DUI defense strategies include:
If you or a loved one has been charged with a underage DUI in Houston, you need to call Blass Law. Our attorneys will aggressively fight to defend your rights and protect your future! Call today or request a consultation online!
1. Texas Department of Transportation, Sober Safe and Underage Drinking. https://www.txdot.gov/driver/sober-safe/underage-drinking.html
2. Texas Department of Public Safety, Driver’s License Documents. https://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/documents/DL-20.pdf