By Collin County Criminal Defense Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal
Several main Texas laws impact minors who mix with alcohol under the Texas Alcohol Beverage Code. First, the good news. Though Texas prides itself on being tough on crime, all charges I’m discussing today are Class C Misdemeanors with multiple ways of getting them off a criminal record.
Below are my abbreviated description of the statutes. If you enjoy the more precise legalese of the Texas Alcohol Beverage Code, you can read the laws here.
1. Minor in Possession (also called an “MIP”)
Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code (“TABC”) 106.05 makes it a crime for a minor to possess alcohol. Possession is defined by Texas Penal Code 1.07(39) as “Actual Care, custody, control or management.”
This simply means the officer and the prosecution must prove the minor did more than be in the mere presence of alcohol and did some affirmative with respect to the alcohol.
The legal defenses to MIP are (1) handling alcohol in the course and scope of employment of a properly licensed business; (2) if the minor is in the visible presence of a parent, guardian, or other person committed to the minor by a court; (3) if the minor is working for police enforcing this law.
2. Minor in Consumption (“MIC”)
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code 106.04 makes it a crime for a minor to consume an alcoholic beverage.
There is a defense and safe-harbor provision to minor in consumption.
It is an affirmative defense for a minor to drink alcohol in the presence of an adult parent, guardian or spouse.
The code provides a safe-harbor to encourage minors who are drinking to assist in emergency situations. The safe-harbor provision protects a minor consuming alcohol if the minor was the first person to request emergency medical assistance to another person who has over-dosed on alcohol and who remains on the scene to assist medical responders.
3. Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”)
A minor commits DUI if they operate a motor vehicle in a public place having consumed a detectible amount of alcohol. A DUI should not be confused with DWI (“Driving While Intoxicated“) under Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code.
Adults cannot be charged with DUI, but minors can be charged with DUI and/or DWI depending on their level of consumption/ intoxication.
Though a DUI is a Class C Misdemeanor, it still carries a potential driver’s license suspension.
4. Purchase (Or Attempted Purchase) of Alcohol By a Minor
A minor who purchases or tries to purchase alcohol commits an offense if they are not under the direction of law enforcement at the time of the act.
5. Misrepresentation of Age of a Minor
A minor commits an offense if they state they are 21-years-old or older to try and purchase alcohol or present false documentation attempting to purchase alcohol.
A brief not about punishment: Again, each of these offenses is a Class C Misdemeanor. TABC 106.071, however, does provide for possible enhancement if the minor has been previously convicted of the same offense at least twice before. This would turn the charge into roughly a Class B Misdemeanor.
These enhancements, however, are extremely rare.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about this or any other topic, please consult an attorney directly