How Bad Is an Underage DWI in Texas?

January 1, 2023 | By Shane Phelps Law
How Bad Is an Underage DWI in Texas?

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense, and it becomes even more severe when the offender is underage. In Texas, like many other states, the legal drinking age is 21. The Texas Department of Transportation explicitly states that the consumption of alcohol by anyone under this age is illegal. Any detected amount of alcohol in drivers under 21 is a crime. So, what happens when an underage individual is caught driving under the influence?

Zero Tolerance Law

Texas has a Zero Tolerance Law for minors who commit any alcohol-related offenses. This law enforces strict penalties for those under the age of 21 who operate motor vehicles with any detectable amount of alcohol in their systems. This means that even if the minor is not 'drunk' or 'intoxicated' in the traditional sense, they can still face serious consequences.

Consequences of Underage DWI

The penalties for an underage DWI in Texas can vary depending on the circumstances of the offense and the offender's history. However, according to the TxDOT, the consequences typically range from fines to license suspension, community service, mandatory alcohol awareness classes, and even jail time in more severe cases.

First Offense

For first-time offenders, the penalties may include a fine of up to $500, a 60-day driver's license suspension, 20 to 40 hours of community service, and mandatory enrollment in an alcohol awareness course.

Subsequent Offenses

The penalties increase for subsequent offenses. A second offense can result in a fine of up to $500, a 120-day license suspension, 40 to 60 hours of community service, and mandatory alcohol awareness education. A third offense before the age of 21 can result in a $500 to $2000 fine or confinement in jail for up to 180 days, a 180-day license suspension, and the possibility of having to use an ignition interlock device.

The DL-20 Form

In addition to these penalties, anyone arrested for a DWI in Texas must familiarize themselves with the DL-20 form. This form, issued by the Department of Public Safety, provides notice of suspension or denial of the driving privilege. The accused individual has 15 days from the date of the notice to request a hearing on the case.

The Non-Criminal Consequences of a DWI in Texas

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense in Texas with severe legal consequences. However, the repercussions of a DWI extend beyond the courtroom. A DWI conviction can impact various aspects of your life, including your academic career, future employment prospects, and even you are standing within your community. In this article, we will explore these non-criminal consequences.

Impact of a Criminal Record

Having a DWI on your criminal record can significantly affect your future. A criminal record can make it challenging to find employment, as many employers conduct background checks and may be hesitant to hire someone with a DWI conviction.

Your ability to rent a house or an apartment may also be affected, as landlords often run background checks on potential tenants. A DWI conviction may raise concerns about your reliability and responsibility, potentially leading landlords to deny your rental application.

Penalties for College Students

A DWI conviction can have significant implications if you are a college student. Your university might impose disciplinary actions, which could include suspension or expulsion. It may also affect your eligibility for financial aid or scholarships, as some programs require students to maintain a clean criminal record.

Furthermore, a DWI conviction could hinder your ability to obtain the necessary credentials if you are studying in a field that requires professional licensing (such as medicine, law, or education). Some licensing boards may view a DWI as evidence of a lack of moral character or professional fitness.

Potential Impact of a Juvenile Offense Record for Future Adult Offenses

A juvenile DWI offense in Texas can potentially impact future adult offenses. If you are convicted of a DWI as a minor and later commit another DWI as an adult, the courts may consider your juvenile record. This could lead to harsher penalties, as the court may view you as a repeat offender.

Moreover, while juvenile records are typically sealed once the individual reaches adulthood, this is not always the case. In certain circumstances, a juvenile DWI conviction may remain on your record into adulthood, affecting your ability to secure employment, housing, or professional licenses.

Understanding the Cost of a DWI

An underage DWI in Texas is a serious matter with significant consequences. It is not just "a bad idea." It is illegal, and it can alter the course of a young person's life. Parents, educators, and community leaders must talk to young people about the dangers and potential legal implications of underage drinking and driving.

The consequences of a DWI in Texas go far beyond legal penalties. They can impact every facet of your life, from career prospects to educational opportunities. Understanding these implications underscores the importance of making responsible decisions and seeking legal counsel if you are facing a DWI charge.

If you are facing underage DWI charges, contact Shane Phelps Law immediately.