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Alcohol & Age-Based Crimes

Texas alcohol laws can be broken up into two categories: 

1) Laws affecting only people under 21 and

2) Laws affecting EVERYONE regardless of their age. 

Alcohol-related crimes for minors are very strict. Texas is a zero tolerance state. Some crimes can only be committed by people who are under the age of 21.  Those crimes include being a Minor in Consumption (MIC), Minor in Possession (MIP), Misrepresenting Age, and Driving Under the Influence (DUI). A DUI is NOT the same as a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). A minor can get both a DUI and a DWI at the same time.  It is possible for someone under the age of 21 to be guilty of multiple alcohol charges at the same time. 

Example:  A 19-year-old student attends a house party and has multiple drinks, becoming intoxicated.  The police arrive to break up the party and spot this 19-year-old holding a can of beer.  The police could charge that student with being a Minor in Consumption (for having already drunk alcohol), a Minor in Possession (for still having a beer in their hand or even just for being at a party where alcohol is available) and if they wandered out into the front yard, for Public Intoxication (PI) [where the student had so many drinks that they are drunk while in a public place and become a danger to themselves or others]. MIC and MIP are tickets only, but a PI will result in an arrest.

Note: if a minor goes to trial and they have been previously convicted at least twice of a minor-related alcohol charge, they could get a fine of up to $2,000 or jail time of up to 180 days, or both.

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  • Types of Charges

    • You cannot drink alcohol of any kind if you are under the age of 21.  Even one sip is too much and can get you in trouble with the police.  An officer can write you a MIC ticket just for smelling alcohol on your breath.  No sobriety test is necessary.  This is a Class C ticket and will not result in an arrest.

    • You cannot have free access to alcohol.  This means being in an apartment, hotel room, party, etc. where alcohol is available and you are free to help yourself.  As a result, it is not necessary for the police to actually witness you holding or drinking alcohol.  You can for example, be ticketed simply for being in an apartment where a keg is present.  Common scenarios include students standing at a table watching beer pong being played and students who agree to hold a friend's drink while they go to the bathroom.  If you share an apartment or dorm room with someone who is 21 years old (or older,) they cannot leave alcohol in the fridge or you may be ticketed for being in possession.  It does not matter that you never intended to drink their alcohol. If you wanted to drink it, there would be no way to prevent you from getting it out of the fridge and that puts it within your possession.  It also means that your roommate could be arrested for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor.  An MIP is a Class C ticket and will not result in an arrest.

    • You cannot lie about your age to buy alcohol or get into bars.  Misrepresenting your age can be simply lying, causing someone to believe you are older than the age of 21, or presenting any documents indicating that you are 21 years old or older to someone selling alcohol.  Examples include sneaking into bars that are only for people at least 21 years of age, telling a clerk in a liquor store that you forgot your ID but were born in a year that makes you age 21 or older, using someone else's ID to get into a bar or using a concert wristband that indicates you are older than 21 years old.   This is a Class C ticket and will not result in an arrest.

    • If you are under the age of 21 and have consumed any amount of alcohol before driving, you are guilty of Driving of the Influence (DUI).  This is not the same as a criminal charge for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI.)  DUI is a charge for people under 21 years old who have consumed alcohol but are not intoxicated.  DUI is a Class C ticket that can result in an arrest, possibly having your car towed and probably a 30-day suspension of your license.  DWI is a crime committed by people of any age who are legally intoxicated (.08 blood alcohol concentration) making them impaired while driving.  DWI is a minimum Class B misdemeanor and will result in you being immediately arrested and your car being towed.

    • Anyone, regardless of age, can be arrested for public intoxication.  The definition of public intoxication relies heavily on the police officer's opinion.  If the officer believes that you have consumed so much alcohol as to be a threat to yourself or others, you can be arrested.  If a police officer indicates that you are being charged with P.I., there is not usually anything you can say to change their mind.  In fact, arguing with the officer can result in additional charges of "Resisting Arrest" or "Failure to Obey the Lawful Order."  Public Intoxication is a Class C ticket but it usually results in an immediate arrest and can put a permanent blemish on your record.

    • Under Texas state law, a person under 21 years old who is in possession of a fake driver’s license with the intent to misrepresent one’s age is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable up to a $500 fine. If the altered driver’s license has a fake identity rather than just a fake age or was issued to someone else, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor with a potential $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. TABC works with venues to train doorman to check IDs presented and passes it to a police officer or TABC agent who then evaluates the ID for tell-tale imperfections. An individual found to be using a fake or altered ID can be arrested.

    • Drunk driving is one of the most serious and common crimes committed by students.  DWI laws are lengthy and vary based on the facts of each case. Crimes in which another person is injured or blood alcohol tests indicate the driver was extremely intoxicated will result in higher charges and additional punishment.  A standard first-offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by arrest, up to $1,000 fine, and 1 year in jail.  In addition to the fine and possible jail time, you will also have to pay $3,000 in surcharges to the Department of Public Safety in order to maintain your driver license.  If you fail to pay the surcharges, you can be arrested and charged with another Class B misdemeanor for "Driving on a Suspended License."