What is the Zero Tolerance Law?
The police in Texas practice a zero tolerance law. This means that anyone who is under 21 may not drive with any alcohol in their system. It is illegal for people under 21 to consume alcohol, after all.
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But it is interesting to note that the ‘zero tolerance’ policy in the Lone Star state is not actually set at the number 0.00%. The underage drinker has to have a blood alcohol content of 0.02% to be placed under arrest. This BAC is very low and typically is reached by drinking no more than one or two beers. So in most cases, teenagers will be charged with underage drinking and driving if they have had as little as one or two drinks in the previous few hours. However, the 0.02% buffer does protect those underage that might have had a sip or two of wine, for example, with their parents. This allows young people who drank with the permission of their parents in a social situation to escape prosecution.
Underage Drinking Attorney?
The original mandate by the National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995 first established that all states should consider 0.02% BAC for all drivers under 21. It was a requirement to establish this limit for states to get federal highway funds. All states eventually agreed. But many states set the limit as a ‘per se’ offense. This means that law enforcement is not required to prove the underage drinker is intoxicated if the driver is over the stated limit.
Some states went further. They set the limit for underage drinkers at 0.00%. This was later recommended by the US government. Texas, however, stayed at the 0.02% limit. It continues to use this limit today. It means if you are arrested for underage DWI and are being charged on the zero tolerance policy of 0.00%, you may be able to fight the case.
Punishments for Underage Drinking
A conviction for underage drinking in Texas is a class C misdemeanor. It is punishable by a maximum $500 fine; required alcohol awareness class; eight to 40 hours of community service; and a loss of your driver’s license for 30-180 days.
The punishments for this crime get worse for repeat offenders. For those who are 17 or older and are on their third offense, the fine can be up to $2000, and a jail sentence of up to 180 days. Your license also will be suspended automatically.
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It is important to discuss an underage drinking charge with an attorney immediately. The state prosecutor’s office is typically serious about getting convictions in these cases. You do not want to go into court for this type of serious charge on your own.
Remember: Having an underage DWI conviction on your record could make your life difficult. You may have trouble getting a job, getting scholarships and even accepted to college. Please contact our law offices today for a complimentary consulting on your underage drinking charge.