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Minors can face harsh penalties for DWI convictions

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2023 | Firm News

In Texas, minors under 21 are prohibited from buying, possessing or drinking alcoholic beverages. Violating this law can result in punishments and even a criminal conviction on record, which can be intimidating for most teens.

But if a minor was caught driving while intoxicated (DWI), they can face even more penalties – on top of those related to the illegal consumption of alcohol. What sort of penalties can young drivers face if convicted of DWI?

DWI penalties for first offense

Typically, an officer can only charge an adult driver with DWI if the motorist’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level at the time of the traffic stop test was at least .08%. But Texas observes a “zero tolerance” law, meaning it’s illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system. So even if a young driver’s BAC doesn’t hit .08%, an officer can still cite them for DWI.

If a court convicts a minor of DWI, they face a long list of punishments for just their first conviction.

The court will find the young driver guilty of a class C misdemeanor, which carries a maximum $500 fine. The minor must also render as much as 40 hours of mandatory community service and attend an alcohol awareness class. Failure to complete the class could lead to 180 days of license suspension and a $100 reinstatement fee. The Texas Department of Public Safety will also suspend the minor’s license for up to a year.

Alternatively, a court can order a convicted minor to install an interlock ignition device in their vehicle, reducing their license suspension period to 90 days. The device prevents an automobile from starting unless the driver blows into a mouthpiece that detects whether their alcohol level is low enough. However, the minor driver must apply for an interlock-restricted license as part of this penalty.

Nondriving offenses also lead to punishments

Drivers under 21 convicted of DWI must also contend with extra consequences for violating Texas’ law against underage drinking. Suppose an officer finds that in addition to drinking alcohol, the young driver lied about their age to buy alcohol or presented falsified documents to pretend they’re of legal age. In that case, the driver can face the following additional penalties:

  • First offense: Driver’s license suspended for 30 days
  • Second offense: Suspension for 60 days
  • Third offense: Suspension for 180 days

Minors 17 or older who face their third offense instead pay a fine of as much as $2,000 and serve a maximum jail confinement period of 180 days.

In summary, DWIs for minors automatically lead to two offenses. Young drivers and their parents must take note of these rules and the severe penalties that await those who break them.