Drunk driving is a serious offense that has serious legal consequences for anyone that is convicted. However, in Texas, the laws and penalties for drunk driving vary depending on the age of the driver.
What is the legal limit?
The legal limit for alcohol in Texas is 0.08% blood alcohol concentration for drivers who are 21 years or older. However, for drivers who are under 21 years old, Texas, like many other states, has a Zero Tolerance Law. This law prohibits people under 21 from operating a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol or drugs in their system.
Effectively, this means that even a BAC of 0.01% can result in a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol by a minor. And, the Zero Tolerance Law applies to any vehicle, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, boats and airplanes.
What are the penalties?
The penalties depend on several factors, like age, the number of previous offenses, the presence of an open container of alcohol, intoxication level and any injuries or deaths. For minors who are under 21 years old, like their adult counterparts, the penalties compound for each subsequent offense.
For a first offense, the penalty is up to $500 fine, 60 days of driver license suspension, 20 to 40 hours of community service and mandatory attendance of an alcohol awareness course. For a second offense, the penalty is still up to $500 fine, but the license suspension increases to 120 days, community service requirement increases to 40 to 60 hours and there is yet another mandatory attendance of an alcohol awareness course. For a third offense, the fine increases up to $2,000, the license suspension increases to 180 days and you could face 180 days in jail (if 17 years or older).
Additional penalties for minors
Additionally, minors who are convicted may face other consequences, depending on the facts of their case. For example, if the BAC is 0.08% or higher, the young person could be assessed a $2,000 fine upon sentencing. That same convicted young person could also face an annual surcharge of $1,000 for 3 years to maintain their driver’s license. This person could also face the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.
Drunk driving is not worth the risk, but as a minor, drinking anything and driving is not worth the risk. Instead, use alternative transportation methods such as public transit, ridesharing, taxis or designated drivers.