underage drinking and driving

What Happens If I Am Pulled Over For a DWI Under the Age of 21?

Drinking and driving is one of the most dangerous activities you can engage in on a night out. While this event can be deadly, it also has significant legal consequences — especially for those under the age of 21. Our Austin alcohol crimes defense attorneys share what happens if you are pulled over for a DWI under the age of 21.

DWI Charges

In Texas, an individual can be charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) regardless of age if they are caught behind the wheel with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, with enhancements for even higher alcohol percentages and other risky behaviors. Those pulled over for a DWI can refuse to take a field sobriety test or preliminary alcohol screening without penalty; however, they can face further charges if they refuse to take a post-arrest chemical test.

Common results of a DWI conviction include:

  • the suspension of your driver’s license,
  • the required installation of an ignition interlock device,
  • fines, and
  • jail time.

You may also face enhanced legal penalties if there was a child in your car at the time of your DWI arrest, if there were open containers present, or if you were involved in an accident that caused someone bodily harm or death.

DUIA By a Minor in Texas

While a DWI in Texas is often colloquially referred to as a DUI, you can still be charged with a DUIA or driving under the influence of alcohol as a minor as a separate offense. In relation to alcohol policies, Texas considers those under the age of 21 to be minors, with two separate punishments if the individual is under the age of 17 or between the ages of 17 and 20.

Rather than creating an enhancement for DWI regarding underage offenses, Texas treats underage intoxication behind the wheel as an entirely different offense to a DWI as a form of their zero-tolerance policy for underage alcohol consumption. Those under the legal drinking age are prohibited from consuming beer and other alcoholic beverages. If they do, they are at risk of facing a variety of criminal charges.

To be charged with a DUI, you must be under the age of 21 and have any amount of alcohol in your body. This means that even if your BAC is under the legal limit of 0.08%, you can be charged with a DUI if you are a minor.

If an individual between the ages of 17 to 20 is pulled over for a DWI, they can be charged with a class B misdemeanor, which includes a financial penalty of up to $2,000, a jail sentence from 72 hours to 180 days, and a potential 1-year driver’s license suspension. The driver’s license suspension can be lowered to 90 days if the individual opts for the installation and use of an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.

If your child under the age of 17 is pulled over for a DWI, this will be considered a juvenile crime and your child can be charged with a class C misdemeanor. Your child will face legal penalties of a fine of up to $500, between 20 to 40 hours of community service, a driver’s license suspension of 60 to 180 days, and an alcohol awareness course for both the child and the parent.

We Can Do More

At Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, our criminal defense attorneys are well-versed in the Austin criminal defense procedures. With a proven track record of 79% of juvenile cases dismissed in 2021, we can help your family fight your child’s charges of DUIA and protect their permanent record.

Was your child charged with a DUIA? Contact our team of dedicated alcohol crimes defense attorneys by calling (512) 991-0576 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about how we can help protect your child’s freedoms.

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