Drivers as young as 16 can get a license in Texas. Many parents are eager for their kids to start driving, since it frees up Mom and Dad from having to transport them to school, work, or soccer practice. Needless to say, teens themselves are also thrilled to get a set of car keys and the freedom that comes with it.
Unfortunately, many kids will drink and drive. Even if it’s only one beer, your child could be picked up and charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol as a Minor, or DUIA. Below, we highlight what penalties your child faces and why a Houston DWI attorney is a valuable asset.
What Happens if a 16-Year-Old is Stopped for DUIA?
Law enforcement can pull your child over and investigate if they have reasonable suspicion your child is drinking and driving. This means asking your child to participate in a field sobriety test. Under Texas law, a teen should have no detectable alcohol in their system. If the officer believes they do, your child will be arrested and taken to the police department to take a breath test or sent to the hospital to draw blood.
Any detectable alcohol in their system warrants an immediate license suspension: at least 60 days for a first offense or 120 days for a second. This is an administrative suspension that doesn’t depend on a conviction.
Like adults, teen drivers gave implied consent to give a specimen for testing when they accepted their license. If they refuse, then their license is suspended for 180 days (if this is a first refusal) or for two years if a second or subsequent refusal.
What Criminal Charges Does My 16-Year-Old Face?
DUIA penalties depend on whether this is a first offense or not:
- First offense: Class C misdemeanor, which requires a maximum $500 fine, up to 40 hours of community service, participation in an alcohol awareness course, and a license suspension for 60-180 days.
- Second offense: Class C misdemeanor, with a maximum $500 fine, up to 60 hours of community service, participation in alcohol awareness course, and a license suspension lasting 120 days to 2 years.
- Third offense: Delinquent conduct charge, with a maximum $500 fine, up to 60 hours of community service, and driver’s license suspension of 180 days to 2 years.
As you can see, these penalties won’t result in jail time. But losing a license for up to two years for a second offense can seriously impair your child’s future, making it harder to get to school or enter the job market. And if your child is 17 or older, they could be charged as adults and face much more severe penalties.
How Tad Nelson Can Help
There’s a common misconception that people never have to divulge their juvenile criminal record. Sadly, this isn’t true. Someone trying to get a federal job or applying for college will usually need to disclose all criminal offenses, even those as a minor. And failure to disclose can carry serious repercussions, so honesty is the best policy. It would be helpful to meet with an experienced Houston DWI attorney to discuss your case. Children have a right to an attorney in Harris County Juvenile Court, and we can analyze your situation to see if we can be of help. Contact our law firm today.