Getting accused of underage drunk driving can be a traumatic experience. You’re likely feeling scared and humiliated after an unpleasant encounter with law enforcement. As a young adult or minor, this is probably the first time you’ve had a run-in with the police or had to go to court. Under such overwhelming circumstances, the assistance of a seasoned Houston DWI lawyer can bring you clarity and hope.
Depending on the facts of your case, your lawyer may be able to get your charges dismissed or obtain an acquittal at trial. In other scenarios, it may be in your best interest to cooperate with the prosecutor and to accept a plea deal or the informal disposition of your case involving community service and rehabilitation.
One thing is for sure: Houston underage DUI lawyer Ned Barnett will do whatever it takes to obtain the best possible resolution of your case. Call us today to learn how we have helped countless underage individuals facing DUI charges at (713) 222-6767 or reach us online.
What is the Difference Between DUI and DWI?
Driving under the Influence (DUI) is an offense that applies only to people under 21 years of age. According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Section 106.041, a prosecutor can charge you with DUI if you’re under 21 and you operated a motor vehicle or a watercraft in a public place with any detectable amount of alcohol in your system. DUI is a class C misdemeanor punishable as follows:
- 20 to 40 hours of community service
- 60 to 180 days driver’s license suspension
- Up to $500 in fines
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is an offense that applies to any driver (regardless of age) who operates a vehicle in a public place with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over .08. Alternatively, you can be charged with DWI if the officer observes that have lost the use of your mental or physical faculties due to alcohol or drugs. DWI is a class B misdemeanor carrying the following penalties:
- 3 days to 180 days in jail
- 90 days to 1-year driver’s license suspension
- Up to $2,000 in fines
- Yearly surcharge fee of $1,000 for 3 years to keep your driver’s license
Will I Be Charged as an Adult or a Juvenile?
Whether you go through the juvenile or adult court systems depends on your age. If you’re 16 years old or younger, you will be tried as a juvenile. If you are 17 or older, you will go through the adult criminal justice system. The adult court system’s priority is to hold offenders accountable for their actions and to protect public safety. If you are convicted of DWI or DUI it will remain on your record for life.
The juvenile court system, on the other hand, emphasizes rehabilitation. The authorities do not want one irresponsible mistake to ruin a young person’s prospects for the future. For this reason, if you are 16 or under and have been charged with DUI or DWI, you can expect a relatively lenient treatment. For example, the record of your conviction will be sealed, so it will not be visible in background checks. You will probably not receive a jail sentence, even if you get charged with DWI. Instead, you will be placed on probation with the requirement of attending counseling and performing community service
What Happens if I’ve Been Convicted of Drunk Driving Before?
A second DUI conviction will remain a Class C misdemeanor, but with an enhanced penalty. Your license suspension period may increase to anywhere from 120 days to 2 years. Your minimum community service requirement will rise to at least 40 hours. For a third conviction, you may receive fines anywhere between $500 and $2,000 and a possible jail sentence of up to 180 days (if you’re being charged as an adult).
A second DWI conviction is more serious. You are legally eligible for probation, but jail time and fines of up to $4,000 are the likely outcomes. When facing a second or third DWI charge–whether as a juvenile or an adult–the authorities will treat you as a significant threat to public safety. As a result, you can expect to receive a lengthily driver’s license suspension. A third conviction is a felony, which involves the possibility of 2 to 10 years in prison for adults, and the certainty of a lengthy detention for juveniles.
Should I Fight my DUI or DWI Charges?
Your focus should be on obtaining the best outcome possible under your circumstances. Depending on the facts of your case and your background, the best outcome may be achievable by either fighting the charges or working with the prosecutor.
When there is evidence that the police trampled your rights, you and your lawyer can and should push back against the authorities with an effective defense strategy. If law enforcement performed an illegal traffic stop or arrested you without probable cause, the dismissal of the charges is a real possibility.
Call an Experienced Attorney Today
In any case, you should not enter a guilty plea or speak with the prosecutors without the assistance of a Houston DUI lawyer. With a proven track record of obtaining good DUI/DWI case outcomes for his clients, Ned Barnett is well positioned to help you make the right choices in your case. His primary concern is that you are treated fairly within the court system and that you are able to move on from this experience.