Minors and alcohol in Texas don’t mix – or at least not in the eyes of the law. In Texas, minors are prohibited from purchasing alcohol, attempting to purchase alcohol, consuming alcohol, and possessing alcohol.
In this article, we are going to break down the underage drinking laws in Texas, including Minors in Consumption (MIC), Minors in Possession (MIP), Public Intoxication (PI), and Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Differentiating between the various alcohol offenses can be difficult. Below is a quick guide explaining the abbreviations and the consequences for each offense stemming from underage drinking.
A minor – a person under the age of 21 – can be charged with Minor in Consumption for simply consuming an alcoholic beverage. An officer does not necessarily have to see the minor drink an alcoholic beverage. The minor can be ticketed if the officer smells alcohol and a breath test reveals alcohol was consumed. Just possessing alcohol is insufficient to be charged with MIC, but it is also a crime for a minor to be found in possession of alcohol (MIP).
Minors may consume alcohol:
A MIP charge may arise if a minor is in direct possession (holding alcohol) or if the minor is in a place where alcohol is present, such as a party, club or vehicle. However, a minor in possession of alcohol in the course of his or her employment may not be charged with MIP.
Minors may possess alcohol:
A person commits the offense of Public Intoxication if the person is in a public place and is intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger himself or others.
If a minor commits the offense of Public Intoxication, it is punishable as MIP or MIC—whichever is appropriate—with the consequences listed below.
Both MIC and MIP are Class C misdemeanors, punishable by a potential fine of up to $500.
Minors who have previously been convicted at least twice of an offense may also:
In addition to a fine, if the minor is placed on deferred disposition or convicted of an offense, the court shall order the minor to perform community service:
The court shall suspend the driver’s license or permit of a minor who is convicted of an offense for:
The court may also deny the issuance of a driver’s license or permit for the same time period if the minor does not have a driver’s license or permit.
In Texas, both a DUI and a DWI refer to an intoxicated person operating a motor vehicle in a public place. The primary differences between the two offenses is the age of the driver and seriousness of the penalties. Drivers under 21 face a DUI charge, while drivers over 21 face a DWI charge.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is usually what a driver under 21 years of age is charged with if there is any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. A person can be convicted of DUI based on just the odor of alcohol on their breath, since individuals under the age of 21 generally are not allowed to consume alcohol. A DUI is a class C misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $500 fine. The driver’s license is also suspended at the time of arrest or citation and an additional license suspension applies if convicted.
A person who is 21 or older will usually be charged with Driving While Intoxicated if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher or if they are mentally or physically impaired due to intoxication. Generally a DWI is a class B misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours unless there was an open container or the person had an alcohol level of 0.15 or higher in which case the punishment is more severe.
If it shown that the person operating the motor vehicle had an open container of alcohol in his or her immediate possession, the offense is a class B misdemeanor with a minimum term of confinement of six (6) days.
If it is shown that an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed, the offense is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.
The Ethan Couch “affluenza case” made national news after Couch was arrested as a juvenile in Tarrant County and charged with Intoxication Manslaughter for causing the deaths of four people. The tragic nature of the case highlights the risks individuals take when they drink and then get behind the wheel. While the community focuses on the effect on the victim’s families, the life of the accused will also never be the same.
If you or a loved one is charged with an intoxication-related offense, at any age, call us at (817) 203-2220 for a complimentary strategy session. Our team is made up of experienced intoxication crimes lawyers who have handled hundreds of alcohol-related offenses. We can help.