Driving under the influence is defined in Section 106.041 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code as a crime that is committed by a “minor,” a person under 21 years of age, who is operating a motor vehicle or watercraft “while having any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system.” It is interesting to note that the Texas Alcohol Beverage Code notates this crime as Driving or Operating Watercraft Under the Influence of Alcohol by Minor. However, as noted, this law does encompass motor vehicles.
It is also important to note that a “minor” CAN be charged with a DUI. Conversely, an “adult,” a person over 21 years of age, CANNOT be charged with a DUI.
What is the Difference Between a Texas DUI and DWI?
There are a number of distinct differences between a Texas DUI and DWI.
First, the penalty range for a DUI is significantly lower. If it is your first DUI offense, the penalty is a Class C Misdemeanor—a fine up to $500. If you have two prior convictions for DUI and you are NOT under 17 years of age, the penalty can consist of a fine between $500 and $2000; confinement in jail not to exceed 180 days; or both a fine and confinement in jail. The DWI penalty ranges vary dramatically depending on a number of circumstances. For the purposes of this blog, just know that a first time DWI offense is a Class B Misdemeanor—a fine up to $2000 and/or confinement in jail not to exceed 180 days.
Second, as noted above, a police officer can arrest a “minor” for DUI if the police officer detects ANY amount of alcohol. For a DWI arrest, a police officer must be able to articulate, to the level of probable cause — “facts and circumstances within the arresting officer’s knowledge, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, that are sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that the person arrested had committed or was committing an offense” — that the individual being arrested was intoxicated. (Amador v. State, 275 S.W.3d 872, 878 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009).) In layman’s terms, can the police officer articulate that based on the totality of the circumstances, there existed a fair probability that (1) a person was operating a motor vehicle (2) who did not have his “normal use of mental or physical faculties” (3) due to the “introduction of alcohol . . . or any other substance into the body”?
Finally, a prosecutor does not have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a “minor” charged with DUI was actually intoxicated. That is the main distinction between DUI and DWI—a minor need not actually be intoxicated for the purposes of DUI, whereas an adult must be at or above the legal limit, .08, or that he had lost the normal use of his mental or physical faculties.
How Does a DUI Affect My Record?
Upon reaching the age of 21, you can get a DUI expunged—deleted from your criminal history—even if you are convicted. However, if you were convicted of ANY other violation of Chapter 106 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, while a “minor,” you are prohibited from getting an expunction. Non-Disclosures are not available for Class C DUI convictions. Of course, if you are acquitted or your case was dismissed, an expunction or non-disclosure can be granted.
How Can We Help?
At Stephen Bowling DWI & Criminal Defense Attorneys, we work diligently to build a solid case so that potentially your DUI may be dismissed. Often, we can help prevent the suspension of your driver’s license.
Being arrested and charged with a DUI can bring with it a wide range of emotions. You might feel sad, disappointed, worried, anxious, or even guilty. Fortunately, we have many years of experience with DUIs and we are here to guide you through this process. We will listen carefully to you and build a solid case to help get your DUI dismissed or reduced. Contact us today for more information about the services we can provide you and your family.