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Texas Underage Drinking Laws: Myth Vs. Fact

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Texas has a reputation as big as the state itself. Tailgating, barbecues, and celebrating a win for the local high school football team, and throwing back a couple beers while floating the San Marcos … many occasions are celebrated by or have become synonymous with consuming alcohol. But it is not just adults who drink at these functions; Texas teens are imbibing as well. In fact, 68% of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 cite their parents as the number one influence on whether or not they drink. Let’s take a look at what the state’s laws have to say about underage drinking.

Underage Drinking Laws

Minors who purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages, as well as minors who misrepresent their age to obtain alcohol or who are intoxicated in public, may face the following consequences:

  • Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500 in fines
  • Alcohol awareness classes
  • 8 – 40 hours of community service
  • Loss or denials of driver’s license for 30 to 180 days

Texas is also a zero tolerance state. This means that it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle in public while having any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. In 2009, this law was expanded to include watercrafts. Consequences for first time offenders include:

  • Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500 in fines
  • Alcohol awareness class
  • 20 – 40 hours of community service
  • 60 days driver’s license suspension

Second time offenders can face even harsher punishments, including:

  • Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500 in fines
  • Alcohol awareness class
  • 40 – 60 hours of community service
  • 120 days driver’s license suspension

Third time offenders immediately lose deferred adjudication eligibility. They cannot plead “guilty” or “no contest” to criminal charges in exchange for completing certain requirements during a time frame set forth by the court. Other punishments can also include:

  • 180 days suspension of driver’s license
  • An increase in the monetary fine from $500 to $2,000
  • Up to 180 days of jail time if the minor is 17 years of age or older

It’s not just minors who face consequences for their actions. Parents, guardians, and other adults can be penalized, too, if they’re found complicit.

 

Penalties for Providing Alcohol to a Minor

In Texas, parents and legal guardians – which includes spouses – over the age of 21 may legally provide minors with alcohol as long as they monitor consumption. But even under these comparative permissible conditions, the legal adults may be held criminally responsible if the underage individuals they’ve provided alcohol to cause an incident.

Adults who illegally make alcoholic beverages available to minors can be punished with the following:

  • Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to $4,000 in fines
  • Up to one year jail time
  • Suspension of driver’s license for 180 days upon conviction

But it doesn’t end there. Adults 21 or older, regardless of their relationship to the underage individual, can be held liable for damages caused by an intoxicated minor under the age of 18 if the adult knowingly provided alcohol to and/or allowed the minor to be served alcohol on premises owned or leased by the adult.

Teenagers may think that kicking back with friends and having a couple of beers is fun at the time, and parents may think their underage child is mature enough to participate in drinking at certain events. Novelty can quickly wear off when faced with the very real consequences of these actions.

 

Houston Alcohol Conviction Attorney

If you don’t want your good time to end in jail time, know the laws and make your decisions accordingly. Thiessen Law Firm is here to help you with any questions you may have about your underage drinking case. Contact us today for your free evaluation.

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