Minors and Alcohol in Texas: From MIPs to Intoxication Manslaughter
Texas has strict penalties for minors who consume alcohol. Minors are prohibited from purchasing alcohol, attempting to purchase alcohol, consuming alcohol, and possessing alcohol. However, a minor may drink in the presence of their adult parent, guardian, or spouse.
Minors in possession, minors in consumption, public intoxication, and driving while under the influence are common offenses minors are charged with if taken into custody. Differentiating between the various alcohol offenses can be difficult to navigate, but below is a quick guide to finding out what the abbreviations mean and what the consequences are for each offense.
Minor in Consumption (MIC)
A minor (a person under the age of 21) can be charged with Minor in Consumption for simply consuming an alcoholic beverage. An officer does not have to see the minor drink the alcoholic beverage, and may make the determination to charge him with the offense if the officer smells alcohol or if the minor agrees to take a breath test and results indicate alcohol was consumed. Mere possession of alcohol is insufficient to be charged with MIC, but it is also a crime for a minor to be found in possession of alcohol (MIP).
Minors may consume alcohol:
- In the visible presence of their adult parent, guardian, or spouse.
Minor in Possession (MIP)
A MIP charge may arise if a minor is in direct possession (holding alcohol) or if the minor is in a place (such as a party, club, or vehicle) where alcohol is present. However, a minor in possession of alcohol in the course and within the scope of his employment may not be charged with MIP.
Minors may possess alcohol:
- For Work: While in the course and scope of the minor’s employment if the minor is an employee;
- Supervision: If the minor is in the visible presence of his adult parent, guardian, or spouse;
- Peace Officer Supervision: If minor is under immediate supervision of a commissioned peace officer enforcing the alcohol beverage code.
Public Intoxication (PI)
A person commits the offense of public intoxication if the person is in a public place and is intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger himself or others. It is a class C misdemeanor subject to a potential fine of up to $500.
If a minor commits the offense, it is punishable as MIP or MIC—whichever is appropriate—with the consequences listed below.
Consequences for Minors
Both MIC and MIP are Class C misdemeanors subject to a potential fine of up to $500.
Minors who have previously been convicted at least twice of an offense may also:
- Be fined anywhere from $250 to $2,000;
- Confined in jail for no more than 180 days; or
- Both a fine and confinement.
- Community Service
In addition to a fine, if the minor is placed on deferred disposition or convicted of an offense, the court shall order the minor to perform community service for:
- Between 8 and 12 hours if the minor has not been previously convicted; or
- Between 20 and 40 hours if the minor has been previously convicted.
- Suspension of License
The court shall suspend the driver’s license or permit of a minor who is convicted of an offense for:
- 30 days if the minor has not been previously convicted of an offense;
- 60 days if the minor has been previously convicted once;
- 180 days if the minor has been previously convicted twice or more.
The court may also deny the issuance of a driver’s license or permit for the same time period if the minor does not have a driver’s license or permit.
DUI vs. DWI: Driving Under the Influence and Driving While Intoxicated
A person commits the offense of driving while intoxicated if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place. A person who is under the age of 21 can be charged with the offense of Driving Under the Influence if there is any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. A person can be convicted for Driving Under the Influence based on just the odor of alcohol on their breath, since individuals under the age of 21 generally are not allowed to consume alcohol.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is usually what a person under 21 years of age is charged with if there is any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. This is not to say the person cannot be charged with a DWI, they may still be charged with a DWI for driving while intoxicated. The difference between the two offenses is the seriousness of the penalties.
DUI is a class C misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $500 fine. The driver’s license is also suspended at the time of arrest or citation and an additional license suspension applies if convicted.
A person who is 21 or older will usually be charged with Driving While Intoxicated if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher or if they are mentally or physically impaired due to intoxication. Generally a DWI is a class B misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours unless there was an open container or the person had an alcohol level of 0.15 or higher.
Open Container: Six days confinement
If it shown that the person operating the motor vehicle had an open container of alcohol in his immediate possession, the offense is a class B misdemeanor with a minimum term of confinement of six (6) days.
Alcohol Level 0.15 or more: Class A Misdemeanor
If it is shown that an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed, the offense is a class A misdemeanor, subject to confinement in jail of no longer than one year and a potential fine of up to $4,000.
The Ethan Couch “affluenza case” made national news after Couch was arrested as a juvenile in Tarrant County and charged with Intoxication Manslaughter under Texas law. The tragic nature of the case highlights the risks individuals take when they drink and then get behind the wheel. While the community focuses on the effect on the victim’s families, the life of the accused will never be the same. If you or a loved one is charged with a serious intoxication-related offense, at any age, call us at (817) 203-2220.