Tag Archives: drunk driving

What Is Texas’s Zero Tolerance Law for Young Drivers?

When you hear about Texas’s “Zero Tolerance Law,” it’s referring to the state’s position on alcohol consumption by drivers under 21 years old.

The law says that if someone under 21 is driving with even the smallest detectable amount of alcohol in their system, they will be charged with DWI or DUI. The law applies to anyone under 20 who is driving a car, boat or airplane.

The DWI charge is for drivers under 21 who have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. If the underage driver has a BAC of less than 0.08, DUI is the charge. These rules apply to any driver who is under 21; they do not need to be a Texas resident or have a Texas driver’s license to face charges.

Penalties for Young Drivers Under the Texas Zero Tolerance Law

If convicted under the Zero Tolerance Law, underage drivers face these possible penalties:

  • First or second DUI offense: Underage drivers can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. If convicted, they face up to $500 in fines, 20 to 40 hours of community service and mandatory alcohol awareness counseling.
  • Third DUI offense under age 17: This is also a Class C misdemeanor. The penalties include a $500 fine, 40 to 60 hours of community service, mandatory alcohol awareness counseling, and possibly the installation of an ignition interlock device to stop you from driving with any alcohol in your system.
  • Third DUI offense age 17 to 21: This is a Class B misdemeanor with fines up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, 40 to 60 hours of community service, and a one-year driver’s license suspension.
  • First DWI under age 21: This is a Class B misdemeanor with the same possible penalties as the third DUI offense.
  • Second DWI under age 21: This is a Class A misdemeanor with fines up to $4,000, jail time of 30 days to a year, and a driver’s license suspension of 6 to 18 months.
  • Third DWI under age 21: This is a third-degree felony with fines up to $10,000, jail for two to 10 years, and the suspension of the driver’s license for six months to two years.

Driver’s License Suspension for Violations of the Zero Tolerance Law

Notice that the DWI penalties include driver’s license suspensions while the DUI penalties do not. However, in DUI cases, separate from the criminal charges above, there will be an administrative proceeding to suspend the license.

Getting an underage DUI leads to these license suspensions:

  • First offense: 60-180 days
  • Second offense: 120 days to 2 years
  • Third offense: 180 days to 2 years

To avoid the DUI driver’s license suspension, you must request a hearing. This allows you to make an argument for why your license shouldn’t be suspended. You should discuss this possibility with your attorney.

Get Help Fighting Underage DWI or DUI Charges in Texas

Don’t make the mistake of simply pleading guilty to DWI or DUI charges under the Zero Tolerance Law. There may be a weakness in the case that a defense lawyer can use to help you avoid the worst outcomes.

Call the Fort Worth DWI and DUI defense attorneys of Lee & Wood, LP today at 817-678-6771 or email us to get a free case evaluation.

Is it Legal to Refuse a DWI Field Sobriety Test in Texas?

Yes, you may legally refuse to take a field sobriety test in Texas. In our opinion, based on decades of experience handling DWI cases, you should refuse.

How Field Sobriety Tests Are Usually Conducted

When an officer pulls you over and suspects you may be driving while intoxicated, the investigation begins with the officer’s observations. They look for bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol.

Officers usually also ask some innocent-sounding questions like, “Where are you headed tonight” or “Had anything to drink tonight?”

If the officer thinks more investigation is needed, they may ask you to step out of the car. You should always obey this instruction; do not refuse to get out of your car, and keep your hands where the officer can see them.

Once you’re out of the car, the officer will probably say they’re “going to do a couple of tests to make sure you’re okay to drive.” Officers use lines like this to get drivers to submit to field sobriety tests without directly asking them to consent to the test.

They hope you’ll just go along with it. Even though the officer acts as though you must take the tests, you are not legally obligated to take them. If the officer tries to start a field sobriety test, you should politely decline.

How to Politely Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Texas

As soon as the officer asks you to stand on one leg, walk in a straight line or wants to test your eyes, that’s the point where you should refuse. But you should not be argumentative or belligerent about it.

Don’t raise your voice. Don’t tell the officer the tests are junk and you’re too smart for them. Remember, the officer’s body camera is recording all the audio and video of the incident.

Instead of getting aggravated, simply inform the officer that you’re choosing not to take any field sobriety tests. Calmly saying something like, “Officer, I understand I have the right to refuse these tests, and I am exercising that right.”

Can I Refuse Breath and Blood Tests in Texas?

Yes, you have the right to refuse any requests for breath and blood tests. Once you refuse, the officer must obtain a search warrant to administer the test. If the officer does get a warrant, don’t fight the blood draw. Allow your blood to be taken.

You will likely be transported to jail, then to a hospital where blood is drawn, then back to jail. A bond will be set, or you might be released on personal recognizance.

Will You Get Arrested for Refusing to Perform Field Sobriety Tests?

The officer might arrest you for DWI after you refuse the tests, but they’ll be arresting you because they think they have enough evidence without the tests. They cannot arrest you simply because you refuse to take the tests; refusal itself is not a crime. However, your driver’s license can be suspended for 180 days if the officer arrests you.

Contact Our Fort Worth DWI Defense Attorneys for a Free Consultation

Arrested for drunk driving? Call a Fort Worth DWI lawyer at Lee & Wood, LP at 817-678-6771 or email us as soon as possible. We handle DWI cases in Tarrant County, Dallas County, Denton County and all surrounding areas.