What is a Underage DUI Compared to Underage DWI?
For adults over the age of 21, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle after consuming certain quantities of alcohol. Because it is illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to consume any alcohol, it is also illegal for any person under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in his or her system. Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for underage DUI which means the driver was under the age of 21 and driving with any registered amount of alcohol in one’s body.
Driving under the influence while underage can have consequences, such as losing driving privileges and staining your future education and employment opportunities. If you have been charged with driving under the influence while under the age of 21, a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney Jose Ceja, of Ceja Law Firm, will use his knowledge of the law to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Driving After Consuming Alcohol in Houston, Texas
In Texas, it is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. Because underage alcohol consumption is illegal, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive or actually control a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system. A person under the age of 21 who drives a motor vehicle is guilty of Driving Under the Influence by a Minor (DUI by a Minor). A minor whose blood alcohol level registers 0.08% or greater is guilty of a different crime–Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
Driving under the age of 21 with any amount of alcohol (confirmed by a breath or blood test) in one’s system is an automatic violation of the law. However, punishment varies based on the age of the driver. A person under the age of 17 guilty of a DUI by a Minor will face:
- On the First Offense: A fine of up to $500, 20 to 40 hours of community service, suspension of driver’s license for 60 to 180 days, and attendance of an Alcohol Awareness Course.
- On the Second Offense: A fine of up to $500, 40 to 60 hours of community service, suspension of driver’s license for 120 to 2 years, and attendance of an Alcohol Awareness Course.
- On the Third Offense: A fine of up to $500, 40 to 60 hours of community service, suspension of driver’s license for 180 days to two years.
A person over the age of 17 but under the age of 21 and registers a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or greater will face:
- On the First Offense: A fine of up to $2,000, a jail sentence of between 3 and 180 days, and suspension of driver’s license for one year (may be reduced to 90 days if community supervision and ignition interlock device are required)
- On the Second Offense: A fine of up to $4,000, a jail sentence of between 30 days and 1 year, and suspension of driver’s license for between 180 days and 18 months
- On the Third Offense: A fine of up to $10,000, a penitentiary sentence of between 2 and 10 years, and suspension of driver’s license for between 180 days and 2 years
If the minor does not have a driver’s license at the time of the offense, driving privileges are denied for the same period as the suspension is imposed. A minor may request a probable cause hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the facts and circumstances around the stop and arrest.
Refusal to Submit to Blood-Alcohol Testing in Houston
Any person driving in Texas is considered to have given implied consent to submit to the administration of a test to determine blood-alcohol levels (breath test or blood test) upon request by a police officer who has probable cause to believe a driver has consumed alcohol.
If an underage driver refuses to submit to blood-alcohol level testing, a driver will be arrested, placed in jail, and held until a bond is posted or a hearing is held before a juvenile magistrate judge.
Upon a first refusal to submit to such testing, driving privileges will be suspended for 180 days. Upon a second refusal, driving privileges will be suspended for 2 years.
When Suspected of an Underage DUI
If a minor is pulled over and a police officer suspects the minor is under the influence of any amount of alcohol, the police officer may ask the minor to perform a field sobriety test. Depending on the circumstances, the minor may be:
- Given the opportunity to take a breath test
- Have his or her vehicle towed
- Taken to jail
- Taken to the hospital for a blood test
- Held until a bond is posted or a hearing before a juvenile magistrate judge is held
Additional Costs of an Underage DUI
The costs of driving under the influence add up, financially and otherwise. First, there are towing and impound fees for the vehicle involved. If the suspension is not overturned, a driver may be liable for the costs associated with a substance abuse course and probation. On top of that, drivers with a history of driving under the influence face higher insurance rates.
Perhaps the greatest cost associated with driving under the influence is the impact it has on one’s future. Having a record for driving under the influence, even while underage, can impact educational opportunities and employment prospects.
Contact Our Houston Underage DUI Attorney Today!
Attorney Jose Ceja understands one mistake should not derail your life. That is why Ceja Law Firm fights tirelessly to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Attorney Ceja has a proven track record of assisting people accused of driving under the influence and can assist you in your case too. If you have been accused of driving under the influence underage, you only have ten days to request a hearing to review the suspension of your driving privileges. Contact Ceja Law Firm now to protect your rights.