Difference between DWI and DUI When it Comes to Underage Drinking

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is against the law for drivers of all ages. In some states, people refer to DWI charges as driving under the influence (DUI). Texas law refers to both DWI and DUI, though these are distinct charges from one another.

The main difference between the charges is that DUI charges are only issued against drivers who are younger than the legal drinking age of 21 years old. While DUI charges are only for underage drivers, DWI charges can be issued against both legal drinkers and underage drinkers.

DUI Charges for Underage Defendants

The legal limit for driving in Texas is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent. However, under state “Zero Tolerance” laws, underage drivers are not allowed to drive with any amount of alcohol in their systems. The slightest discernible BAC can result in an arrest of an underage driver. If the driver has a BAC but it is below the legal limit of 0.08, they can face charges of DUI.

DUI charges can vary depending on the age of the driver. For drivers younger than 17 years old, DUI charges will be a Class C misdemeanor. The possible penalties include the following:

  • $500 fine
  • 40 hours of community service
  • Suspension of driver’s license for 60 to 180 days
  • Mandatory alcohol awareness classes

The charges increase for drivers between the ages of 17 and 20 years old, as they can face Class B misdemeanor charges for DUI. Those penalties increase to:

  • $2,000 fine
  • 72 hours to 180 days in jail
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to one year

It is important to note that an underage driver does not have to be intoxicated or even impaired by alcohol to face DUI charges. This is because it is illegal for them to consume alcohol in the first place, so they can be prosecuted for driving after consuming even a small amount.

DWI Charges for Underage Defendants

An underage driver can face criminal charges of DWI if either of the following applies:

  • The driver had a BAC over the legal limit
  • Police officers stated the driver showed clear signs of impairment from alcohol

A first offense of DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, with a possible 180 days in jail, one-year license suspension, and $2,000 fine. The charges and penalties escalate quickly for subsequent offenses.

Consult with a Denton, TX DWI Defense Lawyer to Protect Your Future

Both DUI and DWI charges are serious matters for underage drivers. Having a DWI or DUI conviction on your record while you are underage can affect your life in many ways. Fortunately, there are ways to fight against these charges and prevent harsh penalties and a criminal record.

At the office of Brent D. Bowen, Attorney at Law, we help underage drivers in Denton defend against alcohol-related charges. Call 940-222-2488 or contact us online for your consultation today.