Driving while drunk is a recipe for disaster. A drunken stupor dulls a driver’s motor skills, concentration, ability to make snap judgments and reaction times, which are all important in driving. Drunk drivers can endanger themselves and the lives of others, which is why Texas law enforcement can charge them with driving while intoxicated (DWI).
But what happens to drivers under 21 caught behind the wheel while drunk? In Texas, the legal age to consume alcohol is 21, so young drivers charged with DWI will face additional charges for underage drinking.
DWI penalties for minors
Texas has a Zero Tolerance Law for minors regarding DWIs, just like other U.S. states. No matter the amount of alcohol or drugs in their systems, minors can get a DWI offense.
Drivers under 21 who get their first DWI offense face the following penalties:
- A fine of up to $500.
- License suspension for up to a year.
- A requirement to attend an Alcohol Education Program worth 12 hours.
- An additional 180 days of license suspension if the driver fails to complete the Alcohol Education Program.
- Another 90 days of license suspension if the judge orders the driver to render community service.
- A requirement to install an ignition interlock device in the vehicle.
In addition to these, young drivers will also have to pay for other surcharges and court costs.
Alcohol offenses for minors
On top of a DWI charge, minors also face charges related to underage drinking. If it’s found that the underage driver purchased alcohol, lied about their age to obtain alcohol, presented a fake ID to get liquor or consumed alcohol, then they could be slapped with additional nondriving alcohol offenses.
The penalties for nondriving alcohol offenses are:
- First offense: 30-day license suspension, which can add to a DWI charge’s license suspension period
- Second offense: 60-day license suspension
- Third offense: 180-day license suspension
DWI charges for minors can result in costly fines and lengthy license suspensions. They also leave criminal convictions on a young driver’s record, which can hurt their employment and financial opportunities in the future. Parents or guardians whose underage children face DWIs should consider contacting a criminal defense attorney who can help fight the charges and find ways to reduce the penalties.