It’s no secret that America’s youth has a habit of going great lengths to get their hands on alcohol before their 21st birthday. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), a government organization, “Underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States. Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among America’s youth, and drinking by young people poses enormous health and safety risks.”
The NIAA reports that by age 15, nearly 30 percent of teens have had at least one alcoholic drink and by age 18, that number soars to 58 percent. “In 2018, 7.1 million young people ages 12-20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond ‘just a few sips’ in the past month,” according to NIAA.
What Are the Penalties?
In Texas, the term “underage drinking” refers to more than the actual act of drinking alcohol. It also refers to minors who attempt to purchase, who purchase, or who consume alcoholic drinks. It also refers to minors who drank in private (or public) and are drunk in public, or who lie about their age in order to buy or be served alcoholic beverages.
All the above underage alcohol offenses mentioned are classified as a Class C misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by:
- A fine not to exceed $500
- An alcohol education class
- Between 8 and 40 hours of community service
- Loss of driver license for 30 to 180 days or denial of license
If a minor has prior alcohol-related convictions on their record and they fail or refuse to attend alcohol awareness training that was court-ordered by a judge, then their driver’s license will be suspended for one year.
Under Texas’ Zero Tolerance law, it’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle in public (underage DWI) with ANY detectable amount of alcohol in their system. As of September 1, 2009, this law was expanded so it included watercraft, such as boats and jet skis.