When people hear that someone in Texas has been charged with drunk driving, they may expect that the person was not in control of their vehicle and was driving with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding the standard legal limit of 0.08 percent. However, when people are found to be driving with alcohol in their systems and they are under the age of 21, they can face DWI charges with a BAC of 0.02 percent or even lower.

This is because of a special subset of drunk driving laws that prohibit underage DWI. Underage DWI laws use a zero-tolerance concept based on the fact that it is unlawful for people under 21 to buy or possess alcohol. While driving under the influence is always illegal, underage DWI laws do not require the driver to be actually influenced by alcohol, nor do they require that the driver operate his or her vehicle unsafely. A driver who is under 21 could face DWI charges after having as little as a glass of wine at dinner. Even driving with a small amount of alcohol in a person’s system is against the law if that person is under 21, and the consequences can be severe and long-lasting.

These laws are mandated in all 50 states under a 1995 federal law that required states to pass a zero-tolerance underage DUI law with a legal BAC limit of 0.02 percent. In order to receive critical federal highway funds, states were required to enact these laws.

People who are charged with underage drunk driving could face serious consequences as a result, including a criminal record that can impact a person’s future searches for employment and housing. A criminal defense lawyer may work to challenge police and prosecution evidence and seek an alternative disposition in order to avoid a conviction.