DUIs and Teenagers: What You Need to Know
If you’ve been anywhere near a television within the last few months, chances are you’ve heard more than you ever wanted to know about the so-called “affluenza teen,” Ethan Couch. While no amount of ignorance and lousy upbringing could ever excuse his actions, teaching responsible behavior in a child begins at home. Not only is it important that you talk to your child about the dangers of drinking, but you should also understand the penalties of a DUI or DWI charge for minors.
As good parents, we want to believe our child is responsible and will not drink until they are of legal age. Unfortunately, teen drinking statistics tell a different story. Consider these sobering numbers:
- The leading cause of death for teenagers are car crashes, and approximately one-quarter of those crashes involve an underage intoxicated driver.
- One out of six teenagers binge drink.
- Only one out of 100 parents believe their child binge drinks.
- Drivers under the age of 21 are responsible for 17 percent of all DWI fatalities.
The most effective way to help reduce these numbers is to educate your pre-teen and teenaged children about alcohol. But it is equally important to make sure your child knows he or she can come to you for help if they find themselves in legal trouble.
Talking to Your Teenager About Alcohol
Even smart kids from good homes make serious mistakes. As a parent, encouraging honesty and trust from your teenager can help prevent a bad decision from turning into something much worse. While you should make it clear to your child that underage drinking is not only unacceptable but also illegal, make sure they understand they can come to you even when they have done something wrong. If your child breaks the rules by drinking or doing drugs, they should feel comfortable asking you for help, rather than taking matters into their own hands and making things worse.
Expecting teens to never make mistakes is a tall order, but healthy and open communication with your teen can help prevent them from abusing alcohol, and potentially putting themselves and others in danger.
DUI Laws in Texas
Minor or not, a DUI in Texas is still a criminal offense that comes with its own range of punishments. There are also some are some key differences between a DUI and DWI for underage drinkers:
- The state of Texas has a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol consumption for drivers below the age of 21. A teenaged driver with any detectable blood alcohol content can be charged with DUI (a Class-C misdemeanor).
- Another key difference between a DUI and a DWI is the severity of the punishment. Actual jail time for a first offense DUI is highly unlikely, and license suspension periods are much shorter at 60 days for a first time offender. You can also be fined up to $500 for a first offense DUI in addition to any court or probation costs you incur.
- Unlike adult DWI’s, officers are not required to arrest and book minors being charged with DUI. As a class-c offense, the officer has the option to simply issue a citation and contact the parents to come and collect their child.
- A minor can still be charged with DWI if they pass the adult blood alcohol limit of 0.08. In this case, the offense becomes arrestable and comes with steeper fines, longer license suspensions, and possible jail time.
- Should your child be taken into custody, they may not be questioned by authorities without the presence of their legal guardian who can also limit questioning in lieu of an attorney being present.
If your teenager is charged with a DUI or DWI, the first thing you must do is contact a qualified, experienced defense lawyer. Award-winning defense attorney Mark Thiessen specializes in DWI cases, has a thorough knowledge of juvenile defense procedures, and will fight to ensure your teen receives a fair trial. Contact the team at Thiessen Law Firm for a free consultation.