All states have a minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) of 21. However, thousands of people are still killed or injured in underage drinking and driving accidents in the United States every year, as per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Drinking and driving is a serious offense. If you receive a DUI charge, you can face a range of penalties, from community service and probation to license suspensions and jail time.
A lawyer from our team can help you fight the under 21 DUI charges you face. If you have received a DUI citation or are involved in some other way with a DUI offense, contact the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg for legal assistance with your case. We can discuss your legal options in your Corinth case further during a free case evaluation.
Under 21 DUI Laws in Texas
It is important to first understand the differences between a DWI (driving while intoxicated) and a DUI (driving under the influence) charge, since both terms cannot be used interchangeably. In Texas, drunk driving typically leads to a DWI charge, not a DUI charge. DUIs are reserved for underage drinking and have penalties different from those levied for DWIs.
Texas defines a minor as someone under the age of 21. Minors are not allowed to purchase, attempt to purchase, consume, or even possess alcoholic beverages. Minors can be charged with a criminal offense if they are found with any detectable amount of alcohol in their systems while they are operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway.
Minors Can be Charged as Adults in DUI Cases
Texas has enacted zero-tolerance laws when it comes to underage drinking and driving. In some cases, minors can be tried as adults for alcohol and drug-related offenses. If a minor is charged as an adult for drunk driving, they can face the following penalties:
- A Class B misdemeanor for a first offense: This can include fines of up to $2,000, jail time of between 3 and 180 days, and a driver’s license suspension of between three and 12 months. Jail time and license suspensions can only be waived for first offenses at the discretion of the court.
- A Class A misdemeanor for a second offense: This can include fines of up to $4,000, jail time of between 1 and 12 months, and a driver’s license suspension of between six and 24 months.
- A felony of the third-degree charge: This can include fines of up to $10,000, jail time of between 2 and 10 years, and a driver’s license suspension of between six and 24 months.
Minors can also face charges of intoxicated assault (also a felony of the third degree) or intoxicated manslaughter (which is a felony of the second degree). These can include the penalties outlined above for third-degree felonies as well as jail time of up to 20 years.
Offenses Involving Under 21 DUI Can be Upgraded
In addition to the above, certain circumstances can raise the offense you are charged with. For example:
- Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher raises the offense from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor.
- A drinking and driving charge with an open container in your car elevates the offense from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor with jail time.
- A drinking and driving accident that led to bodily injuries elevates the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.
- If you have an accident while drinking and driving, you can never have your record sealed if you are convicted. This is why you should seek legal counsel for your case to avoid a conviction.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), you can also have your car towed. Meanwhile, you will be taken to a police department or county jail where you will have to take a breathalyzer test. You could also be taken to a hospital or clinic for a blood test. The arresting officer will determine which test(s) you must take.
It can be difficult to fight DUI charges you face if you were found driving with alcohol in your system. However, our lawyers serving clients in Corinth can adopt one of multiple strategies to fight the under 21 DUI charges you face. During a free consultation, we outline some of the more common strategies used to fight under 21 DUI charges below.
Beating an Under 21 DUI Charge
A handful of defense strategies can be used to fight the charges you face. Remember that every case, charge, and situation is unique. As such, our team will only be able to recommend a specific strategy for you after investigating your case. In general, the following strategies can be used for under 21 DUI cases.
Lack of Just Cause
If the arresting officer did not have just cause to stop or detain you, we may be able to get the court to dismiss your charges. It is illegal for you to be stopped or arrested without any reason. If, after a review of your arrest, it is determined that you were not in violation of any law and the police did not have just cause to stop you, your DUI can be dismissed.
Not all field sobriety tests (FSTs) are accurate. Your weight, age, medicine use, injuries, and other health factors can lead to a positive FST, even if you are completely sober and alcohol-free. If you face a DUI because of a failed sobriety test, you may be able to fight the charge using a defense of a faulty test result.
The same applies to BAC and breathalyzer tests. These tests themselves can be inaccurate. If it can be shown that, for example, multiple samples were needed to obtain a reading or that the machine in question was not serviced for some time, these facts can weaken the prosecution’s case against you.
Police Certification for Specific Tests
If the police officer who administered your breath test was not certified to operate the machine that was used, the results of the test, even if positive, may be inadmissible in court.
Witness Statements and Expert Testimony
The independent testimony of bystanders or other witnesses who can verify that you did not consume alcohol before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle can be used in your defense. Expert witness testimony can also be obtained to question the accuracy or legality of breath, blood, or field sobriety tests that were administered.
Contact Us Today for Legal Representation
Contact the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg today at (214) 696-9253 for legal assistance with your case involving an under 21 DUI. One of our lawyers can help you fight the charges you face in Corinth.
Attorney Isenberg has 30-plus years of experience, and his career as both a prosecutor and state district judge can prove to be invaluable to your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.