Archive for September, 2017

Underage DWI Can Have Serious Consequences for Texas Defendants

Texas criminal defense attorneyFor many years, drunk driving has been the subject of intense activism and media coverage. The public is generally aware that criminal penalties for drinking and driving are severe. But there are also many collateral consequences to having an underage DWI conviction on your criminal record. It is therefore critical that defendants have good legal counsel to ensure that they are treated fairly throughout the charging process.

The Expected Consequences of an Underage DUI

Texas statutes have enacted a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. Under Chapter 4, Section 106.041 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, a minor is guilty of Driving Under the Influence – a Class C misdemeanor – if he or she operates a motor vehicle with any detectable alcohol in his or her system. A minor convicted of this offense must be ordered to serve between twenty and forty hours of community service if it is the first offense, or between forty and sixty hours for repeat offense. All community service must be related to education or prevention of the misuse of alcohol. License suspensions also apply for underage DUI convictions. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, a minor’s driver’s license is suspended for sixty days for the first offense, 120 days for a second offense, and 180 days for third and subsequent convictions.

The Unexpected Consequences of a DWI

While most defendants understand that they face a combination of fines, jail time, and ignition interlock use, they are painfully unaware of the collateral consequences that a DWI conviction can bring. First, the court process is not a simple matter of filling out forms. It requires multiple appearances at the court which often result in missing work. Court-ordered community service and substance abuse classes take more time and can further aggravate the defendant’s employer. Furthermore, the sentenced fine is not the only cost a DWI defendant must pay. There are court fees, administrative fees, attorney’s fees, and other fees which add up quickly. Finally, defendants do not always realize the impact of having a criminal record. This can preclude employment and educational opportunities. Social events and relationships can also be impacted.

A defendant’s employment can also be affected by his or her professional licensure. Many licensing entities in Texas require reporting of criminal convictions, and some even require reporting of arrests and other pre-conviction proceedings. A first time DWI offense can cause a defendant to spend many hours attempting to secure his or her professional licensure. This, too, can incur more attorneys fees. Finally, it is important to realize how much time must be spent at the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to reinstate driving privileges after a DWI conviction. A special restricted license must be obtained for the period in which a defendant has an ignition interlock device. When this period is successfully completed, the defendant must obtain the appropriate court order and return to the DMV to have his or her regular driver’s license reinstated. This process is neither fun nor fast.

These and many other consequences of DWI can make a defendant’s life difficult long after the court case has been finalized. A Texas DWI defense lawyer can help underage defendants mitigate the damage of a criminal conviction.