It is illegal for those under the age of 21 to purchase or consume alcohol. It is also illegal for them to drive after drinking any amount of alcohol, not just an amount that will spike their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit for adults age 21 and older.
As a result, teenagers and even college students experimenting with alcohol in Texas could easily end up arrested and prosecuted for an alcohol offense. What kinds of penalties will the state impose on a minor accused of violating alcohol laws?
Minors could lose their licenses or even go to jail
There are many alcohol offenses that can lead to criminal charges for a minor that would not be a crime for an adult, and many of those offenses carry serious penalties. A driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge for a minor could result from a single drink when someone is still perfectly sober. Any detectable amount of alcohol is enough to trigger a DWI charge for a minor. A minor arrested for a first DWI offense in Texas will lose their license for up to a year. They may have to pay up to $500 in fines and pay to attend an alcohol education program. Repeat or aggravated DWIs could lead to harsher penalties, including incarceration.
The state will also suspend someone’s license for any offense related to alcohol when they are still a minor. Possessing alcohol or even trying to buy it could lead to a license suspension in addition to whatever penalties the courts assess for the offense. In other words, even mistakes that have nothing to do with a young adult driving after drinking could prevent them from driving for a month or substantially longer.
Youthful offensive lead to long-term consequences
Someone young enough to face alcohol possession charges or zero-tolerance DWI charges might be young enough to avoid having a lasting criminal record of the offense. However, in many cases, those already 18 years of age or older could end up with an adult criminal record over a criminal offense related to alcohol. A minor charge could also affect someone’s eligibility for college enrollment and student aid.
Helping teenagers and young adults properly respond to alcohol-related charges may lead to them learning an important lesson without a mistake completely damaging their future prospects.