You can get charged with either a DUI or a DWI in Texas if you are under the age of 21 and operate a motor vehicle after using alcohol or drugs. Both offenses can impact a young person’s life negatively, but according to the Texas Department of Transportation, a DWI conviction carries much higher penalties than a DUI.
What happens if you are under 21 and get a DWI in Texas can be life-altering. To protect your (or your child’s) future, you should contact a Texas lawyer who handles underage DWI cases. Call the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg today at 214-696-9253. With more than 30 years of experience as a former prosecutor and state district judge, Randall B. Isenberg can defend your case aggressively.
The Difference Between an Underage DUI and an Underage DWI
Texas follows a zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers and alcohol. If an underage driver’s blood contains any measurable alcohol, the driver can receive a DUI, unless:
- The underage driver has blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or higher, or
- The arresting officer believes that the underage driver does not have control of his or her mental or physical faculties because of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of those substances. This category does not require the underage driver to fail a BAC test.
In those situations, the state can charge the underage driver with a DWI.
Why You Need to Fight an Underage DWI
The state can suspend your driver’s license for a long time, and you might go to jail for and will likely have to pay a substantial fine for an underage DWI. Making matters worse is that if you get a DWI conviction you will have a permanent criminal record. You will have to disclose the criminal conviction on applications for employment, rental agreements, and college admission.
You might be trying to resolve the embarrassing situation quietly by pleading guilty to the DWI charges in exchange for promises from the prosecutor of little or no jail time, but your friends and family will eventually find out about the conviction because you will have trouble getting into college or getting a job.
If you hire a lawyer who will fight the underage DWI charges, you will be taking the best possible step to try to avoid a permanent criminal record and protect your future.
Underage DWI Penalties in Texas
If you do not fight the charges, you will likely face these penalties for underage DWI:
- First offense: the first underage DWI conviction is usually a Class B misdemeanor unless the prosecutor adds enhanced charges. The standard penalties include the possibility of going to jail for anywhere from three days to six months and paying a fine of up to $2,000. The state can suspend your driver’s license for anywhere between 90 days and one year.
- Second offense: a second DWI conviction while underage can land you in jail for up to a year, assess a fine of up to $4,000, and suspend your driver’s license for up to two years.
- Subsequent DWI convictions: these offenses are felonies that can send you to prison for as long as 10 years. Your fines can be up to $10,000. The state can take your driver’s license away for up to two years.
Once convicted of an underage DWI, you might also have to:
- Complete substance abuse treatment or counseling;
- Attend alcohol education courses;
- Successfully complete a long probationary period and all the conditions thereof;
- Perform community service; or
- Use an ignition interlock system on your car.
Reasons for Enhanced Charges to an Underage DWI in Texas
Even if it is your first or second offense, or for any subsequent DWI conviction, the prosecutor can add enhanced charges in these situations:
- The under-21 driver’s BAC was greater than 0.149;
- There was an open container of alcohol in the car;
- A passenger under the age of 15 was in the vehicle;
- The impaired driving caused an accident with injuries or a fatality; or
- The underage driver provided alcohol to a minor.
How an Under-21 DWI Lawyer Can Help Protect Your Future
Instead of accepting whatever terms the prosecutor offers you in exchange for pleading guilty to a DWI that will give you a permanent criminal record, we usually have these three options, depending on the facts of your case:
- Your lawyer can analyze the evidence and find it flawed or too weak to support a conviction, thereby potentially convincing the prosecutor to drop the charges.
- We can negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charges to something less than a DWI.
- If neither of those options is available or successful, we might have to go to trial and build a strong defense for you.
Do not try to navigate what happens if you are under 21 and get a DWI in Texas alone. Your entire future is hanging in the balance: call the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg at 214-696-9253 to schedule a time to talk with us about your case.