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Underage DWI

Most believe that juveniles are unable to be criminally charged if they’re driving while impaired. However, this isn’t true under Texas law. Any person whose driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is committing a criminal offense, including minors. 

Having a criminal record early on in life can hinder a person’s career options. Even if their record is expunged, the minor may still be forced to disclose their DWI to some educational institutions and licensing agencies. Additionally, a minor may be required to attend alcohol awareness classes, pay large fines, do community service, and possibly have their license suspended.

If you or your child has been charged with a juvenile DWI, it’s crucial that you seek an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

DWI Attorney for Juveniles in Harris County, Texas

DWI charges can be detrimental for any person, especially minors. A juvenile may be unable to pursue their desired colleges or careers because of their record. It’s vital that if you’re a juvenile or a parent with a juvenile with DWI charges that you seek legal representation. 

Matthew Horak excels at defending minors in Texas juvenile courts. He can collect evidence, contest incriminating evidence in court, and uncover any available legal options for you or your child. Rest assured with Matthew Horak he will take every step he can to help you get the best possible results for your case.

Call today at (713) 225-8000 and schedule a free consultation surrounding your charges. Horak Law practices juvenile law at the Harris County Criminal Court and surrounding counties including Fort Bend County, Liberty County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, and Waller County. 

Overview of Minors with a DWI in Texas

 Zero Tolerance Laws in Texas

Texas has tough alcohol-related laws for juveniles. Driving while intoxicated has become a prevalent issue in Texas, and because of this the state has established a zero-tolerance policy for minors. This means that a minor can’t have any trace amount of alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle. 

While adults must have a legal limit of .08 blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) to be charged with a DWI, minors aren’t lucky enough to have this option. Even if the juvenile’s BAC is under .08, he or she will still be arrested for a DWI. Texas Family Code § 51.02 defines a “minor” as any person between the ages of 10 and 17 years old. 

What Happens if I Refuse DWI Testing and I’m a Minor?

Law enforcement uses the same techniques to measure intoxication for minors as they do adults. A police officer may ask you to perform field sobriety tests or submit to chemical testing during a DWI stop. Minors are still subject to implied consent laws, which means they can face repercussions for refusing chemical tests. 

Implied consent laws state that any driver on Texas roads is thereby implicitly bound under law to submit to testing. Those who don’t may face administrative penalties which includes juveniles. A minor who submits to testing and has trace amounts of alcohol in their system will have their license suspended for: 

  • First Offense – 60 Days
  • Second Offense – 120 Days
  • Third Offense – 180 Days 

Even as a minor, you can refuse to submit to chemical testing. Sometimes it’s the best option to refuse testing so there will be no concrete evidence held against you in court. However, it’s important that you understand the penalties for refusing testing. Juveniles who refuse testing may be detained in jail for a period of time and have their license suspended. The following are the suspension terms you may face if you refuse chemical testing during a DWI stop.

  • First Refusal – 180 Days
  • Second or Subsequent Refusal – 2 Years

What are the Penalties for a Minor with a DWI in Texas?

Unfortunately, Texas law is not kind to minors with alcohol-related offenses. A juvenile with DWI charges may not face statutory penalties, but still must endure legal consequences. The following are the penalties for a minor convicted of a DWI in juvenile court.

  • First Offense – Class C Misdemeanor with the following penalties:
    • A fine up to $500;
    • 20 to 40 hours of community service;
    • Driver’s license suspension for up to 180 days; and
    • Participation in Alcohol Awareness Courses.
  • Second Offense – Class C Misdemeanor with the following penalties:
    • A fine of up to $500;
    • 40 to 60 hours of community service;
    • Driver’s license suspension for up to 2 years; and
    • Participation in Alcohol Awareness Courses.
  • Third Offense – Delinquent Conduct by Minor with the following penalties:
    • A fine of up to $2,000;
    • 40 to 60 hours of community service; and
    • Driver’s license suspension for up to 2 years.

Teen Court for Underage DWIs in Harris County, Texas

The penalties for juveniles are harsh but fortunately there are other legal options. Teen Court is a voluntary program created by the Houston Municipal Court and teen volunteers. Minors who are Class C misdemeanor offenders may be able to complete Teen Court and avoid penalties established in juvenile court

A juvenile defendant can plead guilty or no contest and then request their case to be adjudicated to Teen Court. Teen volunteers will then work with adult legal justice professionals to handle the defendant’s case. The outcome will be decided by teen jurors and normally includes penalties such as community service or required jury terms for future Teen Court cases. It may be the best decision to pursue Teen Court if you or your child’s DWI is minor. A juvenile will not have to face Juvenile Court or penalties imposed by the court.

Additional Resources

Teen Court – Visit the official website for Houston’s Municipal Courts Department and find more information surrounding Teen Court. Learn the objectives of Teen Court, how it’s run, and contact information for more details.

Texas Has Tough Alcohol Related Laws for Minors – Visit a document provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety from the Driver License Division. Find more information about the DWI penalties for minors under the age of 21, DWI penalties for juveniles under the age of 17, other related alcohol offenses for minors, and how zero-tolerance laws function.

Lawyer for Juvenile DWI in Houston Texas

If you or your loved one has been charged with an underage DWI, it’s crucial that you start your defense now. You may have to pay steep fines, do community service,  attend alcohol awareness classes or even have your license suspended. Contact Matthew Horak today to begin creating your sturdy defense.

Matthew Horak has handled numerous juvenile DWI and other related alcohol offenses. It’s his passion to preserve the futures for young adults and teens through a strong defense. Don’t put your future at risk and call Horak Law.

Horak Law accepts clients throughout the greater Houston metroplex area and surrounding communities including Missouri City, Bellaire, and West University Place.

Call us today at (713) 225-8000 to schedule a free consultation.

This article was last updated on November 28, 2018.

  • Texas Board of Legal Specialization | Criminal Law
  • National College for DUI Defense
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Laywers
  • Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association
  • Matt Horak has earned recognition for community leadership by Lawyer Legion