Children. They can be the apple of a parent’s eye or a parent’s pride and joy. However, some children push the boundaries that parents set, even going as far as breaking the law. If a child, who is considered a minor, is charged with a crime, he or she will be treated specially under the law, and will be tried as a juvenile. Generally speaking, a juvenile receive lesser punishments for the crimes committed compared to the punishments given to adults (those over 17 years of age). The thinking behind the differences in treatment is that a child may not have a full appreciation of the bad thing that he or she did. A child is more likely to be truly affected by the punishment handed down by the courts, and will likely correct his or her behavior in the future.
Juvenile Law Applies to Minors (Usually)
For family law purposes (custody, visitation, child support, etc.), a child is a minor until the age of 18 so long as he or she has not been, and is not currently, married. If a minor is emancipated, this too will remove the child’s minor status. Yet, for alcohol-related crimes, a minor is considered to be any person under the legal drinking age, which is 21.
However; for criminal law purposes, a minor who is 17 or older is considered an adult and anyone 10 or older but under 17 is treated as a juvenile (unless the offense is so bad that they are classified as an adult regardless of age). So it is completely possible for two high school kids to both be charged with the same crime and be in two different court systems with two different sets of rules.
Juvenile Law Is Special
The Texas legislature has specifically provided for a juvenile to be treated differently than an adult when it comes to criminal law. Having special juvenile laws simplifies proceedings and limits the amount of time during which offending children are separated from their parents. Disparate treatment of juveniles also helps to reduce the stigma associated with conviction of a crime for those too young to know better. However, by providing punishment for crimes committed (even though the punishments may be reduced compared to punishment for the same crime if committed by an adult), juveniles learn that there are consequences for their actions.
Examples of Minor Crimes
Minor in Consumption
Under Texas law, a minor in consumption charge is effectively underage drinking of an alcoholic beverage. The offender does not need to be caught “red-handed” to be charged as a minor in consumption; merely smelling of alcohol on his or her breath or if a breathalyzer indicates that the minor has been drinking can be enough for the charge. Possession of alcohol alone, though, is not grounds for the charge of a minor in consumption. However, it is grounds for a charge of minor in possession of alcohol.
Minor in Possession
When a minor is found to be in possession of alcohol, he or she will be charged with minor in possession. Minors cannot purchase alcohol in the state of Texas, so they should not be in possession of alcohol either. Possession can include actual possession, which means holding an alcoholic beverage, whether it is full or completely empty, or constructive possession, meaning that the minor is at a party where alcohol is available. There are two exceptions in which a minor may be in possession of alcohol: 1) if the minor is performing some function of his or her legal employment that requires contact or possession of alcohol and 2) if the minor is in the visible presences of an adult parent, guardian or spouse.
Driving Under the Influence
Most people think that D.U.I. is the same as D.W.I., but it is not. D.U.I. only applies to minors under the age of 21. Additionally, there is no legal limit of alcohol concentration for a minor. This means that if a minor is found to be driving a vehicle and has any alcohol in their system, they will get arrested.
A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If your child has been involved in a crime, you’ll need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help your child to get through his or her case. The attorneys at Giles & Giles have years of experience working with minors, including alcohol-related charges.