While going through a new TABC site, it became clear that the long term repercussions of underage drinking are great for Texas' young people. While we can chalk some of it up to simply being young and running with life on their own terms, there are some important realities that can sometimes get lost in that time in our lives. Those realities can change everything at a time when consistency is crucial.
For both parents and teens, the laws are very specific and when there’s an automobile, driver’s license and a car full of teens involved, the entire game plan changes.
Texas Teens and Drunk Driving
If you have a teen or young adult under the age of 21, Texas law is clear. They can be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor if they’re caught with alcoholic beverages in their possession or if it’s determined they’re consuming those beverages. Even attempting to purchase alcohol under the age of 21 is a crime. And if your teen lies while trying to buy beer or liquor, that’s yet another charge.
In terms of drunk driving laws – they’re not applicable in ways you might think. It is illegal for a teen to drive a car or operate a boat or other watercraft with any amount of alcohol in their system. That means a teen doesn’t have to be drunk or “buzzed”; if he has anything at all in his system, he’s committed a crime.
And make no mistake: the consequences in place are serious.
Your teen can be hit with a $500 fine, he can be ordered to take both an alcohol awareness course as well as be ordered to community service.
His driver’s license is at risk of suspension.
If he’s 17 or older and he’s been charged twice in the past, his third offense means potential jail time. That’s on top of his driver’s license being suspended.
911 Lifeline Laws
Many teens find themselves feeling hopeless if they see their friends participating in risky behaviors due to alcohol. As parents, we have an obligation to ensure they understand they won’t be in legal trouble, even if they have been drinking or have alcohol in their possession, if they’re requesting medical assistance for their friends. Plus, staying on scene with their friend until that help arrives and then providing medical personnel and law enforcement in a truthful manner also protects them from legal troubles. Too many times, kids leave the scene out of fear of being caught drinking. These laws ensure they’re able to do the right thing with no worries about finding themselves in legal trouble.
Finally, it’s absolutely crucial to reach out for legal help if your teen has been charged with any kind of crime that includes alcohol. It’s not until the realities set in that their future could be tarnished with a mistake made as a teen. It can jeopardize their college educations and can mean higher insurance premiums, even after they’re on their own.