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Drunk driving penalties for minors and adults differ in Texas

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2023 | DWI |

Drunk driving is a serious offense, and both parents and teens should know that the penalties for minors and adults differ significantly in the Lone Star State. There is a strict stance on alcohol consumption and driving here, especially for minors.

Individuals under the age of 21 are subject to a zero-tolerance policy which prohibits any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. For drivers over the age of 21, the legal BAC limit is 0.08%.

Penalties for adults

The court assigns penalties for drivers over 21 with a BAC of over 0.08% based on a variety of factors specific to each case. The maximum fine is $2,000, with up to 180 days of jail time and a possible license suspension of up to two years.

Repeat offenses yield higher penalties than first-time offenses under the same conditions, but penalties are also based on extenuating factors. That means some circumstances could lead to first-time offenders receiving the maximum sentence, although that is not common.

Penalties for minors

Minors caught driving with alcohol in their system but with a BAC below 0.08 can face a range of penalties.

  • A fine of up to $500
  • Between 8 and 40 hours of community service
  • Mandatory classes about alcohol safety
  • A 30- to 180-day license suspension

If an individual is over 17 and under 21, the fines and potential jail time for driving with a BAC over 0.08% are the same as for someone over 21. License suspensions tend to be 90 days to a year, while the penalty for adults is up to two years.

Additional factors

Regardless of the driver’s age, a range of safety considerations and other factors come into play when determining penalties. The presence of open containers of alcohol in the vehicle is one major consideration, as is the involvement of minors in the vehicle other than, possibly, the driver.

Furthermore, causing injury or death while driving under the influence can result in even more severe consequences, including felony charges and lengthy prison sentences. In 2022, accidents involving a drunk driver accounted for 25.9% of all motor vehicle crash deaths in Texas. Even accidents that do not cause injury can affect the outcome of a sentence.

Both parents and young drivers need to understand the penalties for driving with any alcohol in one’s system. The safest choice is to designate a sober driver or arrange for alternative transportation when one is planning on drinking.