Zero Tolerance Doesn’t Mean There’s “Zero Chance”

Facing a DUI charge is a daunting experience for anyone, but when you’re under the age of 21, the situation becomes even more challenging. You’re probably feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about what lies ahead. Although convictions can be expensive and potentially harm your future job opportunities, there are valuable tips to help you understand your rights and protect yourself from self-incrimination.

Understanding Terminology 

There are a couple of basic terms that you may already be familiar with through casual conversation, but they have deeper legal implications. Examples include:

DWI & DUI: In Texas, DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) are often used interchangeably. Both refer to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The only real difference is that the designation “DUI” is most often used when an individual below the age of 21 operates a vehicle while impaired by substances like drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, if the accused is younger than 18, they could potentially face a charge known as Driving Under the Influence as a Minor (DUIM).

Zero Tolerance Policy: Texas has a zero tolerance policy for minors caught with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle. This means that the 0.08% BAC legal limit of intoxication does not apply to minors, and even a small amount can lead to charges. 

Understanding Your Rights

No matter what circumstances led to criminal allegations, there are several basic rights that you should always remember. These include:

Right to Remain Silent: This is arguably the most important right of all in these situations. You have the right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination. You’re not obligated to answer any questions beyond providing basic identification information, and doing so could actually harm your case. Be polite, but don’t speak beyond niceties.

Right to an Attorney: You have the right to an attorney. You should always exercise this right immediately. An experienced attorney can guide you through the legal process, help protect your rights, and look out for your best interests. Invoking your right to an attorney does not imply that you’re guilty; it’s simply your right.

Right to Refuse: Generally, adultds have the right to refuse field sobriety tests. These tests can be subjective and are not mandatory, however it’s important to understand that there are laws regarding Implied Consent for Minors. This means that if they’re arrested for driving or operating a vehicle with any alcohol in their system, they have to agree to breath or blood tests.

Right to Due Process: You have the right to due process. Sometimes minors charged with DUI offenses are tried as an adult rather than through the juvenile system. Thanks to due process, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Building Your Legal Team

Understanding the legal process is crucial to defend against charges effectively. If convicted, penalties include fines, probation, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, and sometimes even jail time. Minors may face additional consequences, such as a longer driver’s license suspension. No matter how old you are after getting pulled over under suspicion of a DWI or DUI, you need an attorney to ensure your rights are protected at every stage of the legal process.

Facing any charges as a minor can be a life-altering experience, but it doesn’t have to define your future. By understanding your rights, the legal process, and working with the right attorney, you can take control of your situation and work toward a resolution. As soon as you run into legal trouble, contact The Law Offices of Charles A. Banker, III for guidance. For a free consultation, call our Houston office at (713) 227-4100 or the McAllen office at (956) 687-9133.

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The Law Offices of Charles A. Banker, III

Our firm’s founder, Charles A. Banker III, has been a solo criminal defense practitioner with offices in Houston and McAllen, TX for over 30 years. He understands what it means to work independently in today’s hyperconnected world, but he also knows that sometimes you need to lean on others.

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