The zero-tolerance law in Texas is different from other DWI or DUI laws you can find in other states. The biggest difference is who it targets. DWIs are for people who are old enough to drink legally. Texas’ zero-tolerance law instead focuses on people who are younger than 21 years of age (DUIs).

Texas takes very strong positions on anybody under 21 who drives while intoxicated. Those are known as zero-tolerance laws.

What Is the Zero Tolerance Law in Texas?

Texas has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol and minors.

What does the zero-tolerance law state? In Texas it is illegal for someone under 21 to purchase, attempt to purchase, consume, or possess alcohol. Additionally, it is illegal for any minor to operate any vehicle while having any amount of alcohol in their system and they will be charged with Driving Under Influence of Alcohol by a Minor (DUI by a Minor).

Zero Tolerance Means Any Amount of Alcohol

Adults at least 21 years old are only considered driving while intoxicated if their blood alcohol level is at 0.08% or higher. This means that if an adult has a blood alcohol level of 0.02%, they are not legally considered intoxicated as long as they haven’t lost the normal use of their mental or physical facilities.

Zero tolerance in Texas regarding drivers under the age of 21 means exactly as its name states. It gives zero tolerance to any minor who drives while having any alcohol in their system. The only acceptable blood alcohol level a minor should ever have while driving is 0% under Texas Law. For minors, driving with any blood-alcohol percentage higher than zero is a crime.

If an officer has a reason to believe there is ANY alcohol in the minor’s system, the minor may be:

  • Arrested
  • Given a breath test
  • Taken to a hospital for a blood test
  • Handcuffed and taken to a county jail or police department

Like an adult, a minor has the right to refuse to take a breath or blood test and refuse to give a sample. Refusing to provide a breath or blood sample leads to a suspension of their driver’s license for 60 days. If they are charged an additional time and still refuse to provide a sample, their license will be suspended for longer.

What Happens if You Are Convicted?

For a minor in Texas, the first DWI offense is a Class C misdemeanor. This is punishable by:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • 20-40 hours of community service
  • 60-day driver’s license suspension
  • Attendance in an alcohol awareness program


A second conviction can lead to:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • 40-60 hours of community service
  • 120-day driver’s license suspension
  • Attendance in an alcohol awareness program


A third conviction for minors who are under 17 years of age can lead to:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • 40-60 hours of community service
  • 180-day driver’s license suspension
  • Attendance in an alcohol awareness program
  • For the third allegation, the court can not give deferred disposition or adjudication which are ways to seek a lesser punishment or have the charge dismissed.


A third allegation for minors who are 17-21 years old is considered a Class B Misdemeanor. Punishments may include:

  • A fine of $500 to $2,000
  • Jail time of up to 180 days


Any Signs of Alcohol Can Convict a Minor

With adults, there is a very strict set of rules that must be followed when establishing if the individual is driving while intoxicated. For minors, those regulations are even broader so that even the smell of alcohol is enough to be charged with DUI. Blood alcohol testing isn’t required to be charged or convicted.

Common sense runs across the board for licensed drivers. The consequences of a DWI conviction can be severe. If you’re a minor, and you’ve consumed any alcohol at all, use a designated driver, or take a taxi home. If you do get charged with DWI or DUI, contact the office of Eric Harron right away.