Can a Minor Get a DWI in Texas?

Texas has "Zero Tolerance" laws concerning minors and alcohol-related offenses. For the purposes of these statutes, a minor is defined as a person under 21 years of age (or under the legal drinking age), and they are prohibited from purchasing, consuming, or possessing alcoholic beverages. Thus, if an underage driver gets behind the wheel after having had a drink, they could be charged with one of two drinking and driving offenses: driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence of alcohol by a minor (DUIA by a minor). The specific charge they're facing depends on the amount of alcohol in their system.

DWI vs. DUIA

In Texas, DWI and DUIA are two distinct offenses. The DWI law states that it is illegal for a person to drive a vehicle on public roads while they have a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more, or while their normal faculties are impaired by the presence of alcohol in their system.

A DUIA is different from a DWI in that the level of alcohol in a person's system does not matter. This is because the law applies to underage drivers who legally are not allowed to consume the substance. If a minor has any detectable amount of alcohol in their system, they could be charged with this offense.

Although a separate drinking and driving law exists concerning minors, that does not absolve an underage driver from being prosecuted under the DWI law. If a minor has a BAC of .08 or higher (or if they're impaired by alcohol), they could be charged as an adult for driving while intoxicated.

Minors Are Subject to Similar Processes as Adults

If a minor is suspected of driving under the influence, they will go through a similar arrest process. A cop may pull the minor over if they reasonably believe that the minor has committed an offense.

The underage driver may:

  • Have their car towed
  • Be arrested
  • Be subjected to blood or breath tests

Just as in cases involving adults, minors have given implied consent to provide a blood or breath sample to determine the level of alcohol in their systems.

They may refuse to participate, but doing so comes with the following consequences:

  • First refusal: Driver's license suspension for 180 days
  • Second or subsequent refusal: Driver's license suspension for 2 years

Potential Conviction Penalties

A minor convicted of an alcohol-related driving offense faces several penalties. The specific punishments depend on various factors, such as the number of previous offenses and whether the minor was charged with a DUIA or DWI.

Penalties for DUIA Offenses

If the minor was under 17 years of age, they face:

  • First offense (Class C misdemeanor):
    • Fine of up to $500
    • Community service for up to 40 hours
    • Driver's license suspension for up to 180 days
    • Mandatory attendance in an Alcohol Awareness program
  • Second Offense (Class C misdemeanor):
    • Fine of up to $500
    • Community service for up to 60 hours
    • Driver's license suspension for up to 2 years
    • Mandatory attendance in an Alcohol Awareness program
  • Third offense (Delinquent conduct by a minor):
    • Fine of up to $500
    • Community service for up to 60 hours
    • Driver's license suspension for up to 2 years

If the minor was between 17 and 21 years of age, they face:

  • First offense (Class B misdemeanor):
    • Fine of up to $2,000
    • Jail for up to 180 days
    • Driver's license suspension for up to 1 year
  • Second offense (Class A misdemeanor):
    • Fine of up to $4,000
    • Jail for up to 1 year
    • Driver's license suspension for 1½ years
  • Third or subsequent offense (Third-degree felony):
    • Fine of up to $10,000
    • Prison for up to 10 years
    • Driver's license suspension for up to 2 years

Penalties for DWI Offenses

  • First offense (Class B misdemeanor):
    • Fine of up to $2,000
    • Jail for up to 180 days
    • Driver's license suspension for up to 1 year
  • Second offense (Class A misdemeanor):
    • Fine of up to $4,000
    • Jail for up to 1 year
    • Driver's license suspension for up to 2 years
  • Third or subsequent offense (Third-degree felony):
    • Fine of up to $10,000
    • Imprisonment for up to 10 years
    • Driver's license suspension for up to 2 years

The consequences of an underage drinking and driving conviction are severe. If you or your child was charged with an offense in San Antonio, contact LaHood Norton Law Group at (210) 801-9400 today. We'll put our 70+ years of experience to work for you.