“Driving under the influence.” “Driving while intoxicated.” Kind of sounds like two different ways of saying the same thing, right? However, in the State of Texas, DUI and DWI charges are definitely not interchangeable; the main point of departure has to do with the age of the driver. It’s Alcohol Awareness Month, so educate yourself – and others – about how to make the distinction.

Zero Tolerance

In Texas, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to drink alcohol. Period. End of story. This “zero tolerance” law extends to any underage person operating a vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system. So if you’re under the age of 21 and you get pulled over, you can still be charged with a DUI… no matter your blood alcohol level. You could be well under 0.04 and have one slapped on you, even.

What confuses many people is that the term “under the influence” implies the loss of your normal mental and physical faculties due to the consumption of alcohol. In the case of an underage driver who has consumed alcohol before stepping behind the wheel, it doesn’t matter whether or not their driving was reckless or otherwise impaired.

Driving While Intoxicated

Regardless of your age, if you get caught driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or above (for commercial drivers, the BAC limit is 0.04 percent), the arresting officer can charge you with a DWI. Keep in mind, an underage driver who is intoxicated can also be charged with a DWI, which carries even more severe penalties than a DUI. However, only minors between the ages of 17 and 21 can be arrested on these heavier charges. Those between 10 and 16 are detained until they’re scheduled to see a magistrate.

The definition of DUI varies from state to state. In Texas, the “zero tolerance” DUI law is in place to help curb underage drinking and prevent alcohol-related injuries and deaths. No matter what your age, operating a vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol can result in your causing an accident or getting pulled over and charged with either a DUI or DWI. Give your keys to a (sober) friend, call a cab, or get a ride with a designated driver instead. It’s much easier to make it home safe than it is to try and figure out what charge is what!

Who You Gonna Call?

If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with either a DUI or DWI, we strongly urge you to contact and speak to an experienced attorney. Sign up for a free consultation with Thiessen Law Firm today. See why we’re one of the best in the business at representing DWI and DUI cases.

Mark Thiessen

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.