Underage drinking continues to be a problem in Texas. In this guide, we hope to shed some light on the conditions and consequences of underage drinking in Texas. Our state’s numerous laws and penalties pertaining to underage drinking reflect the legal bottom line.
Texas takes underage drinking quite seriously. If you, a relative, or a loved one consume, possess, or purchase alcohol for someone under the age of 21 in Texas, you should consider the facts and consequences we discuss below.
Are you or someone you know facing a charge related to underage drinking in Texas? Contact the criminal defense attorneys at The Martinez Law Firm.
How to Define Underage Drinking in Texas
In Texas, the minimum drinking age varies according to whom and to where the drinker is being served alcoholic drinks. For example, a waiter in a restaurant that serves spirits, beer, or wine must be at least 18 years old.
The legal drinking age in Texas is 21 years of age. Originally set as 18 years in 1971, it rose to 19 in 1979 and again to 21 in 1984. These changes in the age were an attempt by legislators to curb drinking and driving instances.
However, there are exceptions to this law. For instance, an individual under the age of 21 may drink at home when supervised and permitted by an adult. The adult must also be on the premises and present when a minor is served alcohol.
Underage Drinking in Texas
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, more than 130,000 minors under the age of 18 were arrested for drunk driving in Texas. Additionally, almost 1,000 minors under 18 years of age were charged with DUI. Also, the Texas School Substance Abuse survey reports that alcohol is the drug of choice for many Texas high school students:
- Experts report that binge drinking may lead to serious health problems.
- Most students said they first drank alcohol at the age of 14.
- Students surveyed say it’s easy to access alcohol when they want it.
- Almost one-fourth of secondary students in Texas say they have had five or more alcoholic beverages on one occasion.
Oftentimes, minors do not consider the possession or consumption of alcohol to be a serious criminal offense. Unfortunately, underage drinking in Texas can lead to juvenile conviction and have other serious consequences.
What Are the Penalties for a Minor in Possession of Alcohol?
When a minor is found drinking, they face severe consequences in the State of Texas. Any individual under the age of 21 who buys alcohol, becomes intoxicated in a public place, lists about their age to obtain or purchase alcohol, or attempts to buy, consume, or possess alcohol faces arrest and charges for Minor in Possession (MIP), otherwise known as underage drinking, in Texas.
MIP is an alcohol-related charge as well as a Class C misdemeanor. Potential consequences of an MIP include:
- Up to $500 in fines
- Up to 40 hours of community service
- Court-ordered participation in an alcohol awareness program
- Loss of driving privileges fro 30 to 180 days
A minor over the age of 17 may face a maximum of $2,000 fines, up to 180 days behind bars, and the automatic suspension or loss of their driver’s license.
Zero Tolerance in Texas
In Texas, it is illegal for any individual under the age of 21 to operate any motor vehicle, including watercraft, in public with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system.
For a first offense, they face a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by
- Fines up to $500
- Up to 40 hours of community service
- Mandated alcohol awareness education
- Up to 60 days suspension of their driver’s license
- Ineligible for a Texas occupational license for 30 days
A second offense is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by:
- Up to $500 fine
- Alcohol awareness classes
- Driver’s license suspension for up to 120 days
- Up to 60 hours of community service
- Ineligible for an occupational license for 90 days
With a third offense, the minor is ineligible for deferred adjudication.
- Driver’s license suspended for up to 180 days
- Ineligible for an occupational license throughout suspension
- At the age of 17, they face a maximum of $2,000 fines and a jail term up to 180 days
Using a False ID
Under the “Use it and lose it” law in Texas, in which use refers to alcohol, it is illegal to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol. Using false identification is a criminal offense, and if convicted, you or your loved one will face a judge and potentially jail time.
At a minimum, it is possible to lose your Texas driver’s license. Any minor who consumes or possesses alcohol faces the potential loss of their driver’s license.
What Are the Penalties of Underage Drinking in Texas?
Although they are aware that the law forbids minors to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol, many minors proceed with underage drinking in Texas. Per the Texas Department of Transportation (TDoT), these are the consequences of underage drinking.
- On a first offense, when a minor possesses alcohol but does not consume it, they potentially lose their driver’s license for 30-80 days and must complete up to 40 hours of community service. They must also participate in a court-ordered alcohol awareness program.
- On a second offense, the minor faces up to $2,000 in fines and a maximum jail time of 180 days.
- When a minor is charged with drinking and driving, they face similar penalties to the possession of alcohol.
- However, on a subsequent offense, they face the loss of their driver’s license for up to 12 months as well as an alcohol awareness program.
When an adult serves alcohol to or purchases alcohol for a minor, they also face serious charges related to underage drinking in Texas.
- On a first offense, the adult faces a Class A misdemeanor charge. They may be fined up to $4,000 and/or face up to one year in jail. They may also have their driver’s license revoked.
- When the adult is not the parent or guardian of the minor and is over the age of 21, they face liability damages for any damage the minor causes under the influence of alcohol.
Selling alcohol to a minor is a Class A misdemeanor. It is punishable by fines up to $4,000 and/or jail time up to one year.