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Criminal Issues

contents

Criminal Laws for Those Under 18
Criminal and Juvenile Records
Drinking Laws

Criminal Laws for Those Under 18

Smoking
After you turn 18, it is legal for you to purchase, possess, and use tobacco and e-cigarette products. If you are under 18 and caught with or using tobacco and e-cigarette products, you may be fined, forced to attend a tobacco awareness class, and have your driver’s license suspended. After you turn 18, it is legal for you to purchase, possess, and use tobacco products.

Tattoos
You may get a tattoo if you are 18. If you are under 18 and lie about your age to get a tattoo, you may be fined or sent to jail!

Curfews
Most nighttime and school hour curfews do not apply after you turn 18.

Criminal and Juvenile Records

Any sort of criminal conduct – an arrest, deferred adjudication, a conviction – is very likely to end up on your “criminal record.” This is true even if it is for something minor in the juvenile court. Your “criminal record” will be accessed by potential employers and landlords, and can prevent you from pursuing all sorts of jobs because an unclean record can keep keeps you from getting certified or licensed. There is a lot of misinformation about what will or can show up on your criminal record. It is important for you to understand that most of your history probably will show up unless you go to court and get the court to take special action to have it taken out of your record. For some types of things, a judge will not have authority to remove it from your record. It is best if you never get in trouble with the law, and if you do, that you don’t get in trouble again.

Juvenile Records

Juvenile records are for anything of a criminal nature that you did before you were 17 years old. Sometimes, even if you are under 17, you can be certified as an adult and the case will be handled in adult criminal court, which means the consequences will be more severe and even more difficult to get off your record. Some juvenile records can be sealed, meaning they are no longer accessible to anyone. Sealing records is a complicated process and it does not happen automatically. Before you can ask the court to seal a record, certain things must happen, such as a certain amount of time passing and no further criminal convictions. For more information about sealing records, see Sealing Juvenile Court Records in Texas in the resources section.

If you had some sort of criminal matter that was never resolved (especially in a J.P. or Municipal Court), it may come back as a bigger issue once you are over 18, when the court can take much stronger action against you and have you arrested without notice. Often foster youth don’t complete a case for something like a Class C Misdemeanor ticket for a fight, shoplifting or curfew violation
because they moved foster care placements or those that were supposed to help them take care of it, such as their foster parent or caseworker, don’t follow through on it or they never told anyone
about the ticket. Don’t assume that “no news is good news.” Ask your caseworker, attorney ad litem, CASA, and foster parent to help you find out what happened to those cases you had, even if
it was just for something like fighting at school.

Criminal Records

For those crimes that you commit when you are 17 or older, you will have an adult criminal record. Getting something off your adult criminal record is called expunction. Most adult criminal records will be on your record forever; the law does not allow you to get them off your record unless you are found not guilty, you get a pardon from the Texas governor who only grants a few each year, or you obtain deferred adjudication for some minor crimes and a specified amount of time has passed. You need to have a lawyer review your case to see if you can expunge your record,
and to handle filing an expunction request with the court. Before you enter a plea of guilty or deferred adjudication discuss with your attorney what will go on your criminal record, if it will be at all
possible to get it off and if so, how you will get it off. You should fully understand the long term consequences before you agree to any plea; a criminal record will come up when you apply for employment, apartments, colleges and licenses for jobs. Remember these criminal proceedings do not automatically go away.

Drinking Laws

Underage Drinking

If you are under the age of 21, any alcoholic beverage is illegal for you to: buy, try to buy, carry or drink.  In addition, if you are under the age of 21, it is illegal for you to be drunk in public. It is also illegal to use a false ID or lie about your age to try to get alcoholic beverages.

If you break any of those laws, then you face these consequences:

  • Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500,
  • Attendance at an alcohol awareness class,
  • 8 to 40 hours community service, and
  • Loss of your driver’s license for 30 to 180 days.

If you are 17 or older and it’s your third violation, then you could be fined up to $2,000, jailed for up to 180 days, or both. Your driver’s license will also be suspended.

If you have been convicted of breaking the underage alcohol laws before, then your driver’s license will be suspended for one year if you do not attend the alcohol awareness training.

Penalties for Providing Alcohol to a Minor
If you give alcohol to someone under 21, then you can get into a lot of trouble. The punishment for giving or even offering alcoholic beverages to someone under 21 years old is a class A misdemeanor that can be punished by a fine of up to $4,000, jail for up to a year, or both. Your driver’s license will also be suspended for 180 days.

If you give alcohol to someone and that person hurts someone else—like if he or she gets in a car accident— then you can also be held responsible.

Zero Tolerance Law
By now you have heard the dangers of drinking and driving. About one person is killed every 30 minutes in an alcohol-related car accident. If you drink and drive, you risk your own safety, the safety of everyone in your car and the safety of everyone else on the road. If you hurt someone while driving drunk, you may face serious criminal charges, including homicide.

Even if you do not hurt anyone, there are still serious consequences for driving while under the influence of alcohol. It is illegal for adults over 21 to drive while intoxicated (exceeding the legal limit for alcohol in your system). It is also illegal for anyone under 21 to drive while having any alcohol in his or her system. If you are under 21 years old and drive after drinking any alcohol, you face these consequences:

First offense:
* Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500
* Attendance at an alcohol awareness class
* 20 to 40 hours of mandatory community service
* Loss of your driver’s license for 60 days

Second offense:
* Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500
* Attendance at an alcohol awareness class
* 40 to 60 hours of mandatory community service
* Loss of your driver’s license for 120 days

Third offense:
* Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500
* Attendance at an alcohol awareness class
* 40 to 60 hours of mandatory community service
* Loss of your driver’s license for 180 days

If you are 17 or older, the fine can be up to $2,000, and you may be jailed for up to 180 days, or both.

The penalties for drunk driving are much more strict and, even if you are under the age of 17, you can be charged with drunk driving.

additional

 

 

Street Smarts Series (TRLA)

Youth Guide Series (TRLA)

Sealing/ Expunction of Criminal Records

Re-entry

Juvenile Court

*Indicates a resource developed by the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. or Texas C-Bar. Please download, copy, and distribute. Complete Resource List