Based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s statistics, over 30% of lethal traffic accidents among adolescents aged 16 to 21 involved driving under the influence (DUI). Such high numbers prompt us to reflect on underage DUI laws in the state of Texas.
In this blog post, we take a closer look at laws, and penalties for underage DUI in Texas, as well as how underage prosecution works.
Underage DUI Laws in Texas
When it comes to driving under the influence, Texas infamously rates the highest of all states. While we have previously detailed the specificities of and differences between DUI and DWI in Texas as well as related common misconceptions, the concerning rise of the numbers related to adolescents calls for a closer look at the underage DUI laws in Texas.
Since Texans are unable to obtain alcohol until their 21st birthday legally, there is also a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to underage DUI. This means that even drinking half a beer can result in community service, a vehicle being towed, or a fine, depending on the particularities of the case.
When a minor fails a blood alcohol content (BAC) test for the first time, their driver’s license can be suspended for two months (60 days). The time of suspension doubles for the second offense (120 days) and triples for the third offense – 180 days – an equal amount of time that is prescribed as a penalty for refusing to do a breath, urine, or blood test, regardless of their sobriety.
Penalties for Underage DUI in Texas
Penalties for Underage DUI for Minors Under the Age of 17
A minor younger than 17 will be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor for a first-offense DUI. Practically, this means that their driver’s license will be suspended for a period between 60 and 180 days, they will be required to complete between 20 and 40 hours of community service and will have to pay a fine of no more than $500. Both the minor and their parents may be required to attend an alcohol awareness course.
For the second DUI offense, the punishment is somewhat more serious and includes a license suspension for between two months and 2 years, no more than 60 hours of community service, a fine of up to $500 as well as the alcohol awareness course attendance.
Penalties for Underage DUI for Minors Ages 17 to 20
The penalties are a bit harsher for older minors. Namely, persons aged 17 to 21 charged with a DUI commonly face being charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. This means that the first-time DUI for this age group comes with a year-long license suspension, a fine of up to $2,000, and 72h to 180 days long imprisonment. In some cases, the driver will be eligible for an installment of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device, in which case their license will only be suspended for 90 days.
Second-time minor DUI offenders will face a Class A Misdemeanor, which comes with a license suspension of between 3 and 18 months, a fine of up to $4,000, and one month to a year in jail.
For the third DUI offense, a minor will be charged with a felony DUI, license suspension for between 3 months and 2 years, imprisonment between 2 and 10 years, and a fine of no more than $10,000.
How Do Underage DUI Prosecutions Work?
While in some states, such as Kansas and Florida, underage DUI is considered to be an administrative violation rather than a crime, it is seen as a criminal offense in Texas and, as such, prosecuted in criminal court. This means that in Texas, the penalties such as installation of an ignition interlock device, alcohol awareness course, license suspension, and other substance abuse programs are not handled administratively, but in court.
DUI charges commonly have rather serious consequences on the way the person’s life develops. If you or your loved ones require assistance in defending a DUI case, contact Benjamin Gergen today at (512) 614-4412.