With summer party season in full swing, many parents and their kids might find themselves wondering, “Can a minor get a DWI in Texas?” The short answer is yes, but there are some unique factors at play that differentiate minor DWI and DUI from their adult counterpart. 

Minor DWI and DUI aren’t any less serious because they are being charged to a minor. Texas courts are incredibly tough on drinking and driving, and ensure that there are lasting, serious consequences for anyone who drives under the influence.

Veteran DWI lawyer Mark Thiessen is here to share some expertise on the minor drinking laws in Texas as well as give the answers to evergreen DWI questions like “how old do you have to be to get a DWI in Texas?”, and “is jail time mandatory for 1st DWI in Texas?”. Keep reading to find out.

The difference between DUI and DWI in Texas

The difference between DUI and DWI in Texas isn’t too complex. DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is reserved for minors and is applicable if any detectable amount of alcohol is present at the time of the arrest — even if your BAC is under 0.08. 

DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), on the other hand, can apply to both minors and adults. DWI under 21 in Texas occurs when a minor’s BAC (blood alcohol content) is over 0.08%, which will land them DWI charges just like an adult. You can also get a DWI for being under the influence of drugs, even if they are prescription, should they affect your driving. Any loss of normal mental or physical facilities will put you in like for a DWI, no matter your age. 

In summary, minors who are arrested with a BAC of under 0.08% will most likely be charged with a DUI, instead of a DWI, if no aggravating factors are present.

Understanding the implied consent laws in Texas

If a minor is pulled over for a traffic stop and the officer has reasonable suspicion that the driver has been drinking, they will require that the driver take a breath or blood test. One of the most common questions we get as Houston DWI attorneys is “can you refuse a breathalyzer?” The answer is yes, but you might not want to. Here’s why.

Anyone who drives a car in Texas owes a duty of care to all other Texas drivers. This means that you give “implied consent” to BAC and drug testing when you get on the road simply because it is dangerous and illegal to drive drunk or under the influence of drugs. You have the option to refuse the breathalyzer of course, but doing that is often just a prelude to the police producing a warrant for a much more accurate blood test. Although not impossible, blood tests are much harder to get thrown out in court if you are trying to fight a DWI under 21 in Texas. 

If you refuse to take a breath test you will automatically have your license suspended for 180 days, and it doesn’t look good during trial. Technically they can’t equate your refusal of the breathalyzer to self-incrimination, but it can still come back to hurt you. 

Penalties for minor DWI, DUI

What are DUI penalties?

DUI penalties are, on average, much less severe than DWI penalties. Young offenders and lack of aggravating factors often mean that the charges are light, but not that they are to be taken lightly. DUI penalties can still carry serious consequences that can follow minors for the rest of their lives, particularly for repeat offenders. 

A DUI first offense in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor for minors under 17 years of age but is elevated to a Class B misdemeanor in Texas for minors aged 17-20.

The charges and penalties per offense are as follows:

  • 1st Offense Under 17
    • Class C Misdemeanor 
    • 20-40 Hours Community Service
    • Fine of up to $500
    • 60 day license suspension
    • Mandatory alcohol education class
  • 1st Offense 17-20
    • Class B Misdemeanor 
    • Jail time of 72 hours – 180 days
    • Fine of up to $2,000
    • 1 year license suspension
  • 2nd Offense Under 17
    • Class C Misdemeanor 
    • 40-60 Hours Community Service
    • Fine of up to $500
    • 180 day –  2 year license suspension
    • Mandatory alcohol education class
  • 3rd Offense Under 17
    • Delinquent Conduct by a Minor
    • 40-60 Hours Community Service
    • Fine of up to $500
    • 180 day –  2 year license suspension

What are DWI penalties?

Is jail time mandatory for 1st DWI in Texas? Jail time is not mandatory for a 1st DWI in Texas, although depending on circumstances like the driver’s BAC and injuries to others involved, you could still end up doing jail time for a first offense. 

OffenseDegreeFines (Up to)Jail Time
1st OffenseClass B misdemeanor $2,00072 hours – 180 days
2nd OffenseClass A misdemeanor $4,00030 days – 1 year
3rd and Subsequent OffensesThird-degree felony$10,0002-10 years
Intoxication AssaultThird-degree felony$10,0002-10 years
Intoxication ManslaughterSecond-degree felony$10,0002-20 years

Aggravating factors such as a high BAC, committing intoxication assault, or committing intoxication manslaughter can increase the gravity of DWI penalties significantly and may land you in prison for up to 20 years.

DUI in Texas is reserved for minors with under 0.08% BAC and can be turned into a DWI before you’ve had a chance to revoke driving privileges. If your child has been arrested on suspicion of minor DUI or minor DWI, you need an aggressive trial lawyer to right the ship. You need Houston DWI attorney Mark Thiessen. 

Is your child facing drunk driving charges in Texas? Hire a DWI specialist to protect their future.

So, can a minor get a DWI in Texas? Yes! But it doesn’t have to be the end of the line. With the right lawyer, you can fight the charges and secure the reputation and future of your child.

If a minor family member has been charged with minor DWI or minor DUI, Mark Thiessen will start crafting a defense for your family’s future. With 100+ Not Guilty verdicts reached and 1000s of DWI cases dismissed, Thiessen Law Firm has beaten DWI cases and will do it again. 

You don’t have to navigate these serious charges alone. Call Thiessen Law Firm at 713-864-9000 or contact us online for a free consultation.

More Helpful Articles by Thiessen Law Firm:

Thiessen Law Firm

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.