A DUI in Texas refers to juveniles who drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Texas has a zero-tolerance policy on underage people driving while intoxicated, and this means there's no minimum blood alcohol content (BAC) level for these drivers -- if there's any suspicion of any amount of alcohol in your system, you can be charged with an underage DUI offense.
Getting charged with a DUI as a minor in Dallas or Fort Worth, Texas, can be serious for a kid just starting out. If you end up with a criminal record, that can be a problem. Fortunately, you can fight the allegation. But also, there are other options to consider that may make sense for you depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case and the circumstances surrounding your life generally. It's always a smart idea (in fact, it's critical to your future) to contact an experienced DWI defense attorney first before making any decisions. Attorney Carl Ceder will review your case and give you honest feedback. Contact his office today to schedule a consultation.
Understanding Juvenile DUIs in Texas
As mentioned, Texas adheres to a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to persons under the age of 21 drinking or using drugs and driving a vehicle. Any indication of alcohol or drugs in a minor's system will lead to an arrest on underage DUI charges. Texas Alcohol Beverage Code Ann. § 106.041 governs this crime and states that a minor commits it
if the minor operates a motor vehicle in a public place, or a watercraft, while having any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor's system.
There are two important factors to keep in mind about underage DUIs and DWIs in Texas: you age and your BAC level.
Texas Alcohol Beverage Code Ann. § 106.01 states that a minor is a person under the age of 21 years while the Texas Family Code § 51.02 states that a child or minor is between the ages of 10 and 17 years old or a person who is 17 but not yet 18 years old.
Age matters because if you are between the ages of 18 and 20 and your blood alcohol content is .08% or higher, which is the per se illegal level in Texas, you can be charged with a DWI and not a DUI. A DWI charge matters because the penalties could be more significant.
Penalties of an Underage DUI in Texas
The penalties associated with an underage DUI in Dallas and Fort Worth are dependent on the offense and the offender's history.
Typically, an underage DUI is punishable as a Class C misdemeanor. A Class C misdemeanor can result in:
- A fine of up to $500; and
- Community service for at least 20 hours but typically not more than 40 hours, and the community service must pertain to education on prevention or misuse of alcohol.
However, if the minor is not a child (meaning he or she is between the ages of 18 and 20) and the minor has previously been convicted at least twice of an underage DUI, the offense is punishable by:
- A fine between $500 and $2,000; and/or
- A jail sentence of up to 180 days; and
- An alcohol awareness class approved by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Durg Abuse -- to be completed within 90 days after the first DUI conviction and may have to be attended by the parents of the minor, too; and
- Community service for at least 40 hours but typically not more than 60 hours, and the community service must pertain to education on prevention or misuse of alcohol.
Under Texas Transportation Code, driving privileges will also be suspended.
- If a minor has any detectable traces of alcohol or drugs in his or her system, the minor is subject to a minimum 60-day administrative license suspension, a civil penalty.
- If a minor has any detectable traces of alcohol or drugs in his or her system and she or he has already been convicted of a DWI in the past, then he or she is subject to a 120-day administrative license suspension.
- If a minor is convicted of a DWI offense, i.e., his or her BAC is at least .08%, his or her driver's license will be suspended for 180 days or one year.
- If the minor refused to submit to a chemical test at the time of the arrest for a first DWI/DUI, the minor's driver's license will automatically be suspended for an additional 180 days known as an administrative license suspension.
- If the minor refused to submit to a chemical test for a subsequent arrest for a DWI/DUI occurring within ten years of the last DUI/DWI, the suspension is for an additional two years.
Alternatives to an Underage DUI in Texas
An underage DUI isn't the end of anyone's life -- that needs to be clear and upfront. There are programs available so that even if you are convicted of a Class C misdemeanor or even a Class B or A misdemeanor, you have options that won't render permanent ramifications.
Teen court is available as a voluntary program for minors who have been convicted of a Class C misdemeanor. Teen court is actually made up of volunteer teens who have graduated from the program itself and is presided over by an adult attorney or volunteer. Completion of the program results in a dismissal of the citation.
Deferred prosecution, also known as deferred disposition and deferred adjudication, is another program that can help first-time offenders, especially those arrested for Class A or B misdemeanors. It is not available to someone who has already been convicted of a DWI crime. The program involves things like counseling, restitution, and community service. If completed successfully, then the criminal charges are dismissed. If you don't complete the program, however, then conviction stands, so there are some risks.
If you were under 21 and convicted for a violation defined under the Texas Alcoholic beverage code, including a DUI, you are likely eligible to have the criminal conviction expunged. This means almost no one will have access to your criminal conviction.
Smart, Resourceful Underage DUI Attorney in Dallas/Fort Worth TX
If you are under the age of 21 and have been charged with a DUI or DWI offense, you need to consider many factors before determining how you will approach the allegations and your defense. Contact Carl Ceder at 469-900-0000 to get honest answers and a candid discussion on your case.