A couple of drinks can ruin your life when you get behind the wheel. If you are a minor, it is a major problem.

Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for minors who drink and drive. The penalties can have a harsh impact on your life for years, even decades.

As a minor, you face stiff penalties

If you are under 17, your first offense is a Class C misdemeanor. Penalties include:

  • A fine up to $500
  • 20 to 40 hours of community service
  • Suspension of your license for 60 to 180 days

If you are 17 to 21, your first offense is a Class B misdemeanor. Penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • A jail term of 72 hours to 180 days
  • Suspension of your license for one year

Other penalties fall outside the law. If you cannot drive, you may be unable to hold down a job, and you may find it difficult to socialize with friends. You also have a criminal record that can haunt you.

As a minor, you can fight back

Defending yourself is not easy. The police and prosecutor have experience on their side. Yet, you can use several strategies to beat the charge.

You can question the arrest itself, as police cannot stop you without cause. You can challenge the evidence if officers did not have a valid reason for pulling you over.

Police make mistakes when administering field sobriety tests. Did they test you under poor lighting conditions? Did uneven pavement cause you to stumble during a walk-and-turn test?

A breath test is not infallible. The machines are not always reliable, especially when they are not maintained. People who administer them sometimes lack proper training.

As a minor, you have rights

Police may try to intimidate you because you are young. While you should remain respectful at all times, you can still challenge officers in court.

A judge may side with you if you raise questions about police procedures. Protect yourself and your future by keeping your driving record clean.