Texas law states that a person under the age of 21 commits an offense of DUI (a Class C misdemeanor) if he or she operates a motor vehicle in a public place while having any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system. This is a much lower standard than is required to arrest a person for a DWI. A detectable amount means that a minor does not have to have a Blood Alcohol Content level of .08 or higher like with a DWI but can be arrested for simply the smell of alcohol on his or her breath.
When charged with a DUI, that person will be facing a suspension of their driver’s license. The suspension is the same administrative license revocation (ALR) process that is used in DWI cases. There is a 15 day period to request a hearing after being issued a citation or being arrested for a DUI to contest the license suspension.
If this the first offense of this type, the judge may order a 60 day driver’s license suspension; up to a $500 fine; 20 to 40 hours of community service; and/or mandatory attendance of alcohol-awareness classes. If a person does not complete the conditions set out by the judge within the agreed upon time, then his or her driver’s license may be suspended up to six months. If this is not the first time being convicted of a DUI, then the judge may order a fine between $500 and $2,000; 40 to 60 hours of community service, and can be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail.
If the person charged is under the age of 18, the court may require a parent/guardian be present at every court appearance. However, the court may allow an attorney to appear on the minor’s behalf at the court appearances.
Just because a person is under the age of 21 does not mean he or she will automatically be charged with a DUI rather than a DWI. An officer may arrest a minor for the more serious offense of DWI if the circumstances warrant such a charge. If he had a BAC of .08 or greater he could be punished with the same penalties that apply to a DWI: a $2,000 fine, 72 hours to 180 days in jail, and a driver’s license suspension of 90 days to one year.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, you should contact an attorney right away.