Underage DWI Laws In Texas

underage driver in car

Charged With Underage DWI? Call Cofer & Connelly, PLLC!

An underage DWI charge in Texas is a severe matter, and dealing with it alone can be overwhelming. For dedicated legal assistance, reach out to Cofer & Connelly, PLLC. Our Austin underage DWI attorneys can help you navigate through this difficult time and work towards the best possible outcome in your underage DWI case. Don’t leave your future to chance. Contact us today at (512) 991-0576 or online for a confidential consultation.

In Texas, minors can be charged as adults for alcohol and drug-related offenses. This means if you're under 21, you're still susceptible to the same heavy penalties as adults for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), which involves operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

First Underage DWI

If it's your first DWI offense, the law classifies it as a Class B Misdemeanor. The consequences can include a fine of up to $2,000, 72 hours to 180 days in jail, and a suspension of your driver's license for 90 days to a full year. However, the court might allow probation for the jail sentence and might waive the license suspension, but only for a first-time offense. If you're caught with an open container of alcohol, the minimum jail time increases to six days.

Second Underage DWI

A second DWI offense is a Class A Misdemeanor, and it carries heftier penalties: a fine of up to $4,000, 30 days to a year in jail, and suspension of your driver's license for 180 days to two years.

Third And Subsequent Offenses

Any third or further DWI offenses are treated as Third Degree Felonies. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, two to 10 years in the penitentiary, and suspension of your driver's license for 180 days to two years.

Intoxication Assault And Manslaughter

More severe offenses like Intoxication Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter, which involve causing bodily harm or death while intoxicated, are also considered felonies. They carry similar penalties as third or subsequent offenses but can result in more extended prison sentences in the case of Intoxication Manslaughter.

Penalties For Non-Driving Alcohol-Related Offenses By Adults

Adults providing alcohol to minors face significant penalties, too. Anyone caught purchasing or furnishing alcohol to a minor can be fined up to $2,000 and/or spend up to 80 days in jail. If someone sells alcohol to a minor, they could face a fine of up to $4,000 and/or a year in jail.

Zero Tolerance For Minors

Texas operates under a zero-tolerance policy for minors involved in alcohol-related offenses, including underage DWI charges. It's a crime for anyone under 21 (considered a minor) to have any detectable amount of alcohol in their system while driving. It's also illegal for minors to attempt to buy, consume, or possess alcohol. This means that the standard legal limit of 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) doesn't apply to minors; even the smallest amount can result in an underage DWI charge.

Minor's Rights And The Law

If a police officer suspects you of drinking and driving, they can stop your vehicle and ask you to perform sobriety tests. If they believe you have any detectable alcohol in your system, you may be arrested, your vehicle may be towed, and you may be required to take a breath or blood test. This can also happen at a hospital or clinic. If an accident has resulted in death or serious injury, these tests become mandatory.

Implied Consent Law For Minors

In Texas, any minor arrested for driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system is considered to have automatically consented to one or more breath or blood tests. If these tests confirm the presence of alcohol, the minor's driver's license will be suspended for 60 days for a 1st offense, 120 days for a 2nd offense, and 180 days for a 3rd or following offense. Minors have the right to contest these charges in a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge.

Refusal To Provide A Specimen

Minors who refuse to provide a specimen for testing can face serious repercussions, including a license suspension. A first refusal leads to a 180-day suspension, while a second or subsequent refusal can lead to a two-year suspension.

Underage DUI Penalties

Depending on the age of the minor and the number of offenses, the penalties can vary. For minors under 17, first and second offenses are classified as Class C Misdemeanors, carrying fines, community service hours, mandatory attendance in an Alcohol Awareness Course, and varying lengths of driver's license suspension. A third offense is considered delinquent conduct and carries similar consequences but more extended suspension periods.

Minors aged 17 to 21 face slightly different penalties for DUI offenses, with fines, jail time, and license suspensions increasing with each offense. The court may not offer probation for the jail sentence or waive the driver's license suspension in these cases.

Non-Driving Alcohol-Related Offenses By Minors

Minors also face penalties for alcohol-related offenses not involving driving, such as attempting to purchase alcohol, falsely identifying themselves as 21 or older to purchase alcohol, or consuming or possessing alcohol. Penalties can range from fines, community service hours, mandatory attendance in an Alcohol Awareness Course, and suspension of a driver's license. As with DWI offenses, the penalties increase with each subsequent offense.


Facing charges related to underage drinking, including an underage DWI offense, can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially for someone with no prior encounters with the justice system. Fortunately, various defenses could potentially be argued by an underage DWI attorney, depending on the unique details of the case. Here are some that might apply:

Lack Of Probable Cause For The Stop

For any law enforcement officer to stop a vehicle, they must have probable cause, which means a reasonable belief that an underage DWI crime has been, is being, or will be committed. If there was no valid reason for the police officer to stop your vehicle initially, any evidence obtained during that stop, including evidence of underage drinking, may be inadmissible in court.

Faulty Breathalyzer Or Field Sobriety Test Results

Field sobriety tests and breathalyzer tests are often critical pieces of evidence in underage drinking charges. However, these tests aren't infallible. For instance, a breathalyzer needs regular maintenance and calibration to ensure accurate readings. If there's any reason to believe the tests were not conducted correctly, the results may be challenged by an underage DWI lawyer.

Actual Physical Control

In some cases, it might be possible to argue that the minor was not in actual physical control of the vehicle when the alleged offense occurred. For example, if the minor was found intoxicated in a parked car but wasn't driving the vehicle, the defense could argue they weren't in a position to operate it.

Involuntary Intoxication

Although it's rare, there might be instances where a minor unknowingly consumed alcohol, perhaps because it was disguised in a non-alcoholic drink. In such cases, the minor can argue that they didn't knowingly or voluntarily consume alcohol, which could potentially serve as a defense.

Mistaken Age Or Identity

This might apply in situations where a minor was served alcohol because they were mistakenly believed to be of legal drinking age. If the minor didn't misrepresent their age or use a fake ID, this could be a viable defense. The defense might also be used in cases where the wrong person was arrested due to mistaken identity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Considered Underage DWI In Texas?

In Texas, any person under the age of 21 who is caught driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system can be charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol by a Minor (DUIA by a Minor), commonly referred to as underage DWI.

What Is The Legal Limit For Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) For Underage Drivers In Texas?

Texas has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving. This means that if any detectable amount of alcohol is found in the system of a driver under 21, they can be charged with a DUIA by a Minor.

What Are The Penalties For Underage DWI In Texas?

The penalties for underage DWI can vary based on the specifics of the offense and the offender's history. They can range from fines up to $2,000 for a 1st offense, along with potential jail time and driver's license suspension, to more severe penalties for repeat offenders, including larger fines, longer jail sentences, and extended driver's license suspensions.

What Happens If A Minor Refuses To Take A Breath Or Blood Test?

In Texas, by operating a motor vehicle, you are considered to have given consent to the taking of breath or blood samples for the purpose of determining alcohol concentration. This is known as “implied consent.” If a minor refuses to provide a specimen, their driver's license may be suspended for a longer period than if they had complied.

Can A DWI Charge Be Defended Against?

Yes, it's possible to mount a defense against an underage DWI charge. Potential defense strategies can include challenging the validity of the traffic stop, the administration and results of field sobriety tests, or the breathalyzer results. An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the specifics of your case and guide you on the best possible defense strategy. Always consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you or a loved one is facing DWI charges.

Facing An Underage DWI Charge In Texas? Don’t Face It Alone, Call Cofer & Connelly, PLLC!

If you've been charged with an underage DWI in Texas, you need experienced and relentless underage DWI attorneys by your side. Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, renowned Austin criminal attorneys, are just a call away. Our team combines over 100 years of experience, and we’ve successfully managed more than 25,000 criminal and family law cases. With over 370 jury trials to our credit, we've spent decades inside courtrooms, serving as respected prosecutors and judges. Our vast experience and comprehensive knowledge of the Texas legal system ensure you're in capable hands. Our underage DWI lawyers are ready to fight for your rights and strive for a favorable outcome. Secure your future. Reach out to us at (512) 991-0576 or connect with us online to schedule a confidential consultation.

To learn more about DWI charges, click here. To learn more about crimes committed by minors, click here.

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