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.