In Texas, motorists who are accused of driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or more could face charges of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). If, however, a driver turns out to be under the age of 21 years old, he or she will likely be charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI or DUIA), regardless of how much alcohol was actually in his or her system. Having this type of conviction on one’s criminal record can have far-reaching consequences. Fortunately, there are steps that underage first-time offenders can take to help avoid the more severe penalties of a DUI conviction. Please call one of our experienced Houston DUI/DWI lawyers today to learn more.
DUI Law in Texas
As in cases where a police officer suspects a driver of operating a vehicle while under the influence, an officer who has reason to believe that an underage driver has any detectable alcohol in his or her system can:
- Ask the driver to take a breath test;
- Take the driver to a hospital for a blood test;
- Arrest the driver in question;
- Have the driver’s vehicle towed; and
- Take the driver into custody.
When a test reveals that an underage driver had any amount of alcohol in his or her system, no matter how small, that individual will also automatically have his or her driver’s license suspended for two months. In fact, even refusing to take a breath or blood test is punishable by an automatic driver’s license suspension for up to six months. The driver can, however, request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, where he or she can contest the test results or the lawfulness of the stop and arrest.
Consequences of a DUI Conviction
The penalties that an underage driver faces for a DUI conviction depend on a few specific factors, including whether the driver has any prior DUI convictions on his or her record and his or her age at the time of the arrest. If, for instance, a driver is under 17 years of age, a first DUI offense comes with a fine of $500, up to 40 hours of community service, a license suspension for up to six months, and attendance in an alcohol awareness course. Subsequent offenses are punishable by more community service and a longer driver’s license suspension.
If, however, a minor is between the ages of 17 and 21, a first time DUI conviction will result in a fine of up to $2,000, at least 72 hours, but up to six months in jail, and a one-year driver’s license suspension. Second offenses are taken even more seriously, as they are considered Class A misdemeanors and as such, are punishable by a fine of up to $4,000, a jail sentence of between one month and one year, and an 18-month driver’s license suspension. Any subsequent offenses will be charged as felonies, which could come with a ten-year prison sentence.
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