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Minors and drunk driving charges: What every parent needs to know

Nov 11, 2021 | Juvenile Crimes

It’s one of every parent’s worst nightmares: Your child was arrested and charged with drunk driving. While you may be tempted to let them face the justice system on their own to learn a lesson, you don’t want a mistake to affect their educational or career opportunities.

That’s why it’s crucial to learn more about the charges and penalties a minor can face for driving under the influence. They’re different than for people over 21 – but serious nonetheless.

What are the penalties for those under 21?

Texas law has “zero tolerance” when it comes to minors and alcohol. If a minor is caught driving with any amount of alcohol in their system, they can face criminal charges.

Minors under 17 years of age can be charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUIA) by a Minor. For a first offense, they can face up to 60 days behind bars in addition to fines, a suspended driver’s license and community service and mandatory participation in an alcohol awareness course. The penalties increase with subsequent convictions.

If a minor who is at least 17 years of age but who has not yet turned 21 is arrested for drunk driving, they can be charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) by a Minor. A first conviction can result in up to 180 days in jail and a year’s driver’s license suspension, among other penalties.

Older teens can be charged as adults

It’s important to remember that under Texas law, prosecutors have the option to charge a 17-year-old as an adult for drunk driving and other offenses. That means that if someone was harmed or killed because of a 17-year-old’s drunk driving, they could be facing some serious legal consequences.

Whatever the situation, if your child has been arrested, they have legal rights. It’s crucial to protect those rights and work to seek the best possible outcome for their future.