During the summer in Texas, young people will attend parties, events and take part in leisure activities. For many, that might include alcohol being made available. It is illegal for those under 21 to drink alcohol, but some still do so. This can be made worse if they get behind the wheel and drive.
Texas has a “Zero Tolerance” policy regarding underage drinking. It goes beyond the amount of alcohol in their system and extends to whether they agree to take part in testing when instructed to do so by a law enforcement officer.
Understanding how those under 21 are treated in a DUI investigation
For drivers 21 and older, the blood alcohol concentration will generally need to be at least 0.08% for there to be a DUI charge. Since people under 21 are not allowed to drink alcohol at all, it is 0.01%. Law enforcement can make a traffic stop provided there is reasonable suspicion to do so. If an underage driver is going too slow or weaving in and out of their lanes, this would be sufficient.
Testing procedures are frequently up for debate as people may be unsure of what rights they have regarding submitting to the test or refusing. Implied consent means that the minor must give breath or blood specimens when asked to do so.
If they have any alcohol in the system, they will face escalating penalties based on how many times they have committed the offense. For a first offense, there is a 60-day driver’s license suspension. It doubles with a second offense. For a third offense, it is 180 days.
Minors might make the mistake of thinking they can refuse to give a specimen. A refusal will lead to an immediate arrest even if they did not have any alcohol in their system at the time. They will not be released until posting bond or appearing in court. They will also have their driver’s license suspended for 180 days if it is a first refusal and two years if it is a second refusal or more.
There are options to fight an underage DUI
It can be intimidating for a young person to be arrested on DUI-related charges. They might say and do whatever the officer asks to deal with the situation. Despite the harsh penalties, there are strategies to combat the allegations.
For example, the justification for the traffic stop can be called into question at a hearing before an administrative law judge. In these cases, those accused of DUI or other juvenile crimes must know their rights and forge a plan to create an effective defense.