Attorney Ned Barnett has extensive experience defending students charged with crimes in Houston. He will work diligently to get the best possible result for your case and to protect your future, your education, and your freedom.
Many laws in Texas are based on a person’s age. As an adolescent, you cannot consent to sex until you are 17 years old. You cannot purchase or use tobacco until you are 18 years old, and you cannot purchase or drink alcohol until you are 21 years old.
If you participate in an activity before you are of the lawful age, then you are breaking the law and may be convicted and punished. If you are 16 years or younger, your case may go through the juvenile court system and you will need the help of a Houston criminal defense lawyer. However, once you turn 17, your unlawful conduct goes through the adult court system, which can have harsh consequences. You will need an experienced and trusted Houston underage crimes lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett to defend you.
If you are facing underage crime charges, call us today at (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential case consultation.
Common Underage and Student Crimes in Texas
No matter your age, you can be charged with any crime if there is evidence you broke a state or federal law. However, there are certain offenses you are more likely to experience when you are under the age of 21, including:
- Possession of Alcohol- It is illegal for you to possess alcohol if you are not yet 21 years old. If you are found with an alcoholic beverage in hand, or if you have alcohol in your dorm room, apartment, or vehicle, you will be charged with a crime. Possession of alcohol is typically a misdemeanor. Contact attorney Ned Barnett to learn about the consequences of underage alcohol possession.
- Public Intoxication- It is illegal to be drunk in public. If you cause a scene or are clearly intoxicated while out with your friends, you may be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.
- Underage Driving Under the Influence (DUI)– When you are under the age of 21, your legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .01 percent. If the police find any detectable amount of alcohol in your breath or blood when you have been driving, you will be arrested for an underage DUI. This is typically a misdemeanor offense. However, it has harsh consequences for you as a student or young adult starting a career. Learn more about the penalties for an underage DUI and how to defend against this charge.
- Possession of a Fake ID- It may seem harmless to obtain a fake ID or use someone else’s license to buy alcohol or get into 21-and-over bars and concerts. However, possessing false identification is illegal in Texas. If you are caught with a fake or false, ID you may be charged with a crime. Call Houston underage crimes lawyer Ned Barnett for help in defending against this offense.
- Disorderly Conduct– You may be charged with disorderly conduct if you try to start a fight in public, moon or flash someone, use offensive language in public, display a weapon, or do anything else that disturbs the peace. This is a misdemeanor offense, and in addition to the statutory penalties, will look terrible on your record. Contact an underage crimes lawyer for help right away.
The Criminal Justice Process
You can expect the criminal justice process to follow a relatively straightforward journey:
- Your arrest. You may be arrested if police catch you in the act of committing a crime, or if an investigation into an offense points in your direction.
- Being booked into jail. Once you are arrested, you will be taken to a local jail and booked.
- Going before a magistrate. Within 48 hours of your arrest, you will be taken before a magistrate who will determine if there is enough probable cause to move forward with charges. If not, you will be released. If there is enough evidence that you likely committed the offense, you will be told the conditions for your release, including the amount of bail. You may also be released on your own recognizance without having to pay bail.
- A prosecutor files charges. If prosecutors are charging you with a misdemeanor, they can immediately file a complaint against you. If you committed a felony, they will need to call a grand jury and seek an indictment against you.
- Receiving notice of your arraignment. Once charges are officially brought against you, you will receive notice of the location, date, and time of your arraignment. At this hearing, the judge will inform you of the charges against you, your right to an attorney, and have you enter a plea.
- Pre-trial hearings. If you plead not guilty, you and your attorney may go through a number of pre-trial hearings and conferences regarding your case. Throughout this time, your attorney may negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutors. This is one method to attempt to minimize the consequences of a conviction.
- The trial. If you do not change your plea to guilty or accept a plea bargain and the case is not dismissed, your attorney will present your defense at trial. The judge or jury will determine whether the prosecutor proved you are guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Your sentencing hearing. If you were found guilty, you will have a sentencing hearing before a judge or jury after the trial.
Keep in mind, during this process, you may also face administrative action from your college or university. You may have to defend yourself before your school and seek to minimize the consequences of your behavior there, including fighting expulsion.
Statutory Penalties for Underage and Student Crimes
If you are charged with an underage or student offense, the potential statutory penalties depend on the level of the charge. Many underage crimes are misdemeanors, which means you face:
- Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500.
- Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000.
- Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.
However, your punishment may constitute more than some jail time and a fine. You may have to follow the rules of probation for a period of time, which could include community service, abstaining from alcohol and other drugs, restitution to any victims you injured, and checking in with a probation officer at least once per month. If you violate the terms of probation in any way, you could find yourself in even more trouble.
Additional Consequences of an Underage Conviction
You may look at the potential penalties above and think they are not too bad, particularly if you have an attorney who can fight for you to receive little-to-no jail time. However, this is short-sighted thinking. You may be able to pay the court costs, fines, and fees relatively easily, and you may even be willing to play by the rules of probation for a year. However, the collateral consequences of a conviction can be devastating and impact you long after your statutory punishment is complete. A number of possible effects of a misdemeanor conviction include:
- Trouble continuing your education
- Difficulty obtaining a job
- Reduction in your child custody or visitation
- Denial of your visa, permanent residency, or citizenship application
- Inability to travel to certain countries, including Canada
The Impact of an Underage Crime on Your Education
The collateral consequences of a conviction can have a profound effect on your education as well. You may experience:
- Expulsion from your college
- Difficulty gaining admission to college for the first time or when trying to transfer
- Ineligibility for federal student loans, depending on the offense
- Difficulty obtaining other financial aid like grants and scholarships
- Difficulty obtaining references from professors and employers
- Trouble getting internships
- Difficulty getting into a graduate program
- Ineligibility for or difficulty obtaining a professional license
The truth is that being convicted of a crime can delay your education. You may suddenly find yourself kicked out of school. Even if you remain at your school or transfer to a new one, you may still run into issues. Professors, counselors, and potential employers who learn about your criminal history may not trust you or give you the benefit of the doubt. You could face numerous hurdles in building the experience you need to get a good job after graduation.
Let a Houston Underage and Student Crimes Attorney Help You
To try and prevent all of this from happening, you need to work with an experienced Houston underage crimes lawyer. Attorney Ned Barnett has represented students and the parents of students at many Houston area colleges and universities including but not limited to:
- University of Houston
- Rice University
- Texas Southern University
- Lone Star College
- Houston Community College
Attorney Barnett has more than 30 years of experience and is a board-certified criminal lawyer by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He has the knowledge and skills you need to exonerate yourself in court or minimize the consequences of a conviction.