When you consider drunk driving charges, you probably think about drivers who have several drinks too many and get behind the wheel of their cars. In nearly every state, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent is beyond the legal limit, but if the driver is under the age of 21 (the legal drinking age), it is a different situation. The State of Texas takes a zero-tolerance stance when it comes to underage drinking and driving. A driver who is under the age of 21 and is found to have any amount of alcohol in his or her bloodstream, can face criminal penalties.
Driving under the Influence of Alcohol by a Minor: Zero Tolerance
In Texas, it is illegal for an individual who is under 21 to buy, possess, or consume alcohol. For this reason, it is also illegal for a minor to get behind the wheel after having consumed any alcohol. If a driver under the age of 21 is found to have any amount of alcohol in his or her system, that driver is on the wrong side of the law, even if it has been hours since the minor had a drink and is unimpaired. A minor driver with alcohol in his or her system can be charged with a drunk driving offense known as driving under the influence of alcohol by a minor (DUIA).
Underage DUI Penalties
A minor who is charged with DUIA faces several harsh penalties, including:
- A fine of up to $500
- A driver’s license suspension or up to 60 days
- 20 to 40 hours of community service
- Alcohol awareness classes
If the conviction is not your first, you can face harsher penalties.
If you are a minor driver who registers with a BAC of .08 percent, you could be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) – just like you would be if you were an adult. Such charges can include penalties of up to $2,000 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, and a driver’s license suspension of up to a year.
Challenging the Charges
If you are a minor who has been charged with DUIA or DWI, you need to bring your strongest defense. The fact is that there are legal challenges to such charges. For example, some stops are not legal, to begin with, and sometimes, the alcohol measurement device itself is incorrectly calibrated or otherwise faulty. If you are facing DUIA charges as a minor, you need an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney on your side.