• Justin Sparks

Is Texas a Zero-Tolerance State?

In 2019, over 36,096 people died in vehicular accidents in the US. Out of that number, 17% were children. What’s more, the percentage of vehicle crashes has increased by 7.2% since 2020, despite the lockdown restrictions. The reasons for this are many and varied, but the most consistent causes include failure to wear seatbelts, speeding, and drunk driving.

In fact, drunk driving kills around 28 people every day. That is an alarming number, and the US government is taking all the necessary steps to address the problem. All states treat driving while intoxicated as a serious crime and punish drunk drivers with steep fines and even mandatory jail time.

However, some states are harsher than others. Texas, for example, is one of the top 10 states with the strictest punishments for drunk adult drivers. But what is the state’s attitude toward minors who drink and drive? Is Texas a zero-tolerance state? To understand how they’ll get penalized for their infraction, here is everything drivers need to know about Texas DWI laws.


What is a Zero Tolerance Law?

What is a Zero Tolerance Law?


Though many believe zero-tolerance laws came about fairly recently, they actually date to the 1980s. In 1984, Congress examined drunk driving statistics and realized that minors were far more likely to get into fatal car crashes while under the influence of alcohol. Subsequently, they moved to pass the National Minimum Drinking Age Act.

The law raised the legal drinking age to 21 in all US states. This laid the groundwork for the introduction of the zero-tolerance law. In essence, since it's illegal for minors under the age of 21 to drink alcohol, it should be illegal for them to drive a vehicle while intoxicated.

However, in some states, zero tolerance laws apply to other controlled substances besides alcohol, such as narcotics. Therefore, drivers who are found to have any amount of drugs in their system will face DUI charges. But, it's important to note that the law in most states only applies to illegal substances.

Moreover, some states allow drivers to have a limited amount of legalized controlled substances in their bloodstream, such as marijuana. For example, 3 states penalize the presence of THC in the bloodstream while allowing drivers to have a limited number of metabolites. Currently, only Colorado has permissible laws allowing medical marijuana users to have certain levels of THC as well.


Is Texas a Zero Tolerance State?


Ever since Congress implemented it in 1988, all 50 US states have enforced zero-tolerance laws. Texas is no different. The Lone Star State allows adults to operate vehicles as long as their blood alcohol level doesn’t exceed 0.08%.

However, when it comes to minors under the age of 21, the state will charge them with a DUI if they’re found to have even trace amounts of alcohol in their blood. This number can be as low as 0.01-0.2%. What’s more, minors can face a DUI charge if they’re in possession of an alcoholic beverage or if their vehicle smells of alcohol when they’re pulled over. The laws apply to other controlled substances such as illegal drugs as well.


On a related note, find out how much is a DWI bond in Texas if you were charged with a DWI offense.


How Texas Punishes DUIs and DWIs


Because Texas abides by zero-tolerance laws, it reserves different punishments for minors and adult drunk drivers. For example, an adult caught drunk driving will face a DWI. Driving while intoxicated is a more serious offense, and Texas courts will treat it as a Class B Misdemeanor.

A DWI charge involves a $2,000 fine, a suspended license, and 72h of mandatory jail time. The severity of the punishment increases if this is the driver’s second or third offense. In cases where the drunk driver caused an accident, Texas courts can go so far as to charge them with 20 years to life in federal prison.

Minors, on the other hand, get much lighter penalties. For one, the courts will charge them with DUIs, not DWI. Driving under the influence categorizes as a Class C Misdemeanor, and it entails a $500 fine, a 60-day license suspension, and 20-40h of community service. However, only first-time offenders get these charges.

What happens when you get 2 DWI in Texas?


Minors with two DUI charges get a 120-day license suspension and 40-60 hours of community service. Third-time offenders get the harshest penalties. Texas courts will not only issue them with a $2,000 fine but 180 days of mandatory jail time, along with a 180-day license suspension.


If you need help with a DUI case, get in touch with the best Tarrant County DUI attorneys today.