Differences Between Juvenile, Adult Court in DUI Case
The top concern for a youth charged with driving under the influence of alcohol is to prevent that charge from ruining his or her life. A criminal record could limit his or her options when going to college or looking for a job. Spending time in jail is a jarring experience that may do more to traumatize a youth than rehabilitate him or her. In Texas, the age of a youth charged with DUI makes a significant difference. A juvenile court hears DUI cases for defendants age 16 and younger, while defendants age 17 to 20 are tried as adults.
A DUI charge for someone age 16 or younger is a class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by:
- A maximum $500 fine;
- A minimum 60-day driver’s license suspension;
- 20 to 40 hours of community service; and
- Required completion of an alcohol awareness course.
The goal of the juvenile court system is to rehabilitate the youths it convicts without hindering their ability to be healthy adults. Juvenile records are automatically sealed from most background checks and can be permanently sealed if the person does not receive any more criminal charges. A juvenile court is unlikely to sentence a defendant to jail time, even if the juvenile had enough alcohol in his or her system to qualify for a charge of driving while intoxicated.
A DUI charge for someone age 17 to 20 is a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by:
- A maximum fine of $2,000;
- 72 hours to 180 days in jail; and
- A driver’s license suspension of 90 days to one year.
The court can change the jail sentence to probation if it is the first DUI offense. However, the defendant is depending on the understanding and leniency of the judge in charge. The adult court system is more concerned with properly punishing those convicted for the crimes they committed than rehabilitating them.
Contact a San Antonio DUI Defense Lawyer
Youths do not suddenly become more responsible and accountable for their mistakes when they turn 17. A defendant as old as 20 is still liable to make youthful mistakes and deserves the same chance as a 16-year-old to learn from an alleged DUI incident. It can be difficult to contest a DUI charge because there is zero-tolerance for any amount of underage alcohol consumption. Seeking minimum punishment may be your child's best tactic. A San Antonio DUI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can argue why an underage defendant needs rehabilitation more than punishment. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.