It’s the telephone call that every parent dreads; your kid has been picked up for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Underage drinking is a huge problem in Texas. In 2014, there were 193 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities where drivers were under the age of 21. That’s almost 20 percent of the national figure. One-fifth.

Here’s another sobering statistic: In 2010, Texas led the nation in DWI deaths, according to Austin Police Chief W. Gardner Selby. This is not a distinction that the people of Texas can be proud of.

What are the facts about DWI in Austin?

Whether you are a teenager yourself or you are a parent of a newly qualified driver, there are a few facts you need to keep in the front of your brain:
  • The state of Texas uses your blood alcohol level (BAC) to determine whether you have been driving while intoxicated (in other words, drunken driving).
  • Adults over the age of 21 are considered to be too intoxicated to drive when their BAC is equal to 0.08 percent or higher.
  • Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for minors and alcohol, meaning if you are younger than 21 years old, any amount of detectable alcohol is too much.
  • Under Texas’s implied consent laws, underage drivers who are lawfully arrested for a DUI must comply with blood or breath BAC testing. If you refuse, you can be jailed until your hearing in juvenile court or until you post bond. The refusal will also likely result in a driver’s license suspension.
  • Implied consent does not apply to chemical tests made prior to an arrest. An officer will likely ask you to take a voluntary preliminary alcohol screening (also known as a preliminary breathalyzer test or PBT). Field sobriety tests are also used to establish probable cause for the arrest.
  • Just because you were arrested for underage drinking in Texas does not mean you are guilty. A jury must have proof beyond reasonable doubt of your guilt to convict you.
  • You do not have to tell an officer if you’ve been drinking. The only things you need to tell them are your name and date of birth, which can both be answered with a driver’s license.

What Is the Difference Between DWI and DUI?

A DUI, or driving under the influence, is only issued to those under the legal drinking age. You can be charged with a DUI if you have any detectable amount of alcohol in your blood or breath.. Meanwhile, a DWI can still be issued to minors if they have a BAC above the legal limit (0.08).

Special Zero-Tolerance Rules of Minors

The penalties and consequences of receiving a DUI will vary depending on the driver’s age.

For minors under 21 years of age, a DUI is a Class C misdemeanor, which can bring penalties such as:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • Assignment of between 20 and 40 hours of community service
  • Mandatory attendance of alcohol awareness classes
  • Driver’s license suspension of up to 180 days

Can you get a DWI from driving Stoned?

If you are driving a vehicle and have lost the use of your normal mental or physical facilities due to a drug you can be convicted of DWI. Frequently officers are giving DWIs to people who have smoked marijuana, taken Xanax and other drugs that may have even been prescribed to them. So, if you were stoned while driving, that is grounds for a DWI charge.

What Are the Penalties for DWIs for Minors?

A DWI for minors can still be issued if they have a BAC above the legal limit (0.08). It’s a more severe crime than a DUI, and the penalties will vary depending on how many times you’ve been charged.

First DWI (Class B Misdemeanor)

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • Driver’s license suspension of between 90 to 365 days
  • Jail confinement of 72 hours to 180 days
  • A 12-hour Alcohol Education program

If you possess an open container of alcohol at the time of an arrest, the minimum jail time goes up to six days.

Second DWI (Class A Misdemeanor)

  • A fine of up to $4,000
  • Driver’s license suspension of between 180 days to two years
  • Jail confinement of 30 days to one year

Third and Subsequent DWI (Felony of the Third Degree)

  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Driver’s license suspension of between 180 days to two years
  • Penitentiary confinement for two to ten years

Intoxication Assault (Felony of the Third Degree)

While not a DWI charge, intoxication assault is an underage drinking charge of assaulting another person while intoxicated. It can incur the following penalties:

  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Driver’s license suspension of between 180 days to two years
  • Penitentiary confinement for two to 10 years

Intoxication Manslaughter (Felony of the Second Degree)

Intoxication manslaughter, causing the death of someone while intoxicated, can often carry more severe penalties:

  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Driver’s license suspension of between 180 days to two years
  • Penitentiary confinement for two to 20 years

Can You Save Your License from Suspension?

If you act fast, within 15 days of the day you were arrested, you can request an Administrative License Revocation hearing with the Texas Department of Public Safety. This hearing will make the final determination of a license suspension.

Otherwise, a $125 reinstatement fee is required prior to reinstating a suspended license.

How Many Ways Can an Under 21 DWI Ruin Your Life?

Well, it can seriously injure, maim, or even kill you. Apart from the statutory penalties stated above, having a DWI record can ruin your chances of:

  • Getting into college
  • Finding a job
  • Leaving the country to go on vacation

Few people leave the house with the intention of getting picked up for DWI. Texas allows juveniles to drink alcohol under certain conditions if their parent is directly supervising them.

One of the few obvious perks of being a parent of a teenager is having a live-in designated driver. It only takes one beer to have a detectable amount of alcohol. If you are driving your

mom and dad to a backyard barbecue on the other side of town, don’t even let yourself be tempted. The consequences are just not worth it.

How to Avoid a DWI in Texas

Take the necessary steps to avoid any situation where you would feel pressured to drink and drive. Some safe and simple ways to avoid drunk driving include:

  • Having a designated driver (a reliable and sober friend who drives you)
  • Calling a friend or parent to pick you up
  • Calling for a cab or Uber/Lyft
  • Making arrangements to stay at the place you drank
  • Getting a room at a nearby hotel

Contact the Law Office of Eric Harron

Have you, your child, or a loved one been convicted of a DUI or DWI in the state of Texas? If so, you need to contact the Law Office of Eric Harron today. We have offices that service all of Travis, Williamson, Haw, and Bell County including Austin, Georgetown, and Temple.

Eric Harron is an educated and experienced lawyer who focuses his practice on helping those who have been accused of crime and felonies.