It’s the Law
Status crimes are offenses committed by youth 17 years old and younger. Different cities and states have different laws and consequences for these crimes.
Alcohol, Drugs and Driving
More than half of all fatal car accidents involve alcohol or other drugs. It is impossible to tell in advance how you will be affected by alcohol, prescription and nonprescription drugs, or street drugs---even a small amount can greatly affect you and your ability to drive.
Anyone under the influence of alcohol or other drugs must not attempt to drive. It is extremely dangerous to get into a car driven by someone under the influence---not only are you putting yourself in danger, but others around you as well. In Texas, the penalty for a first-offense conviction of driving while intoxicated (DWI) may include jail time, a fine of $500 to $1,000, loss of driving privileges, and participation in an alcohol or drug treatment program. The driver’s car insurance rates will be higher for up to ten years. Depending on the situation, the driver’s parents may be responsible for any penalties, fines, or damages.
It is against the law:
- To serve or allow liquor to be served to anyone under the age of 21
- For anyone under the age of 21 to have alcohol in their possession in a public place or car at any time
If you or someone you are with is stopped or picked up by the police, you have many of the same rights as adults. If this happens, here are important things you should know:
- Do not resist arrest---the most important thing to do is to cooperate. Your attitude and cooperation will have a direct effect on how you are treated. You should give the police your name, address, phone number, and date of birth. Beyond this, you do not have to volunteer any other information.
- You do not need to sign anything without advice from your parents or a lawyer.
- Ask the police to call your parents or another trusted adult.
- Everyone is allowed a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, the court will appoint one for you.
It is against the law to have, use, or sell marijuana, also known as pot. You could spend up to one year in jail and be fined up to $4,000. The penalties for offenses involving drugs like cocaine, speed, crack, or large amounts of marijuana are harsh---if a federal law is broken, you could be sent to a federal prison.
A simple prank, like removing hubcaps or spraying graffiti, is a crime of vandalism. These crimes have serious consequences---you can be put in juvenile detention or jail, or even tried and sentenced. A juvenile record can affect you later in life---what you think of as a prank today could hurt you in the future. Some schools or employers will not accept you if you have a court record.
A search warrant is a document signed by a judge giving law enforcement permission to search a house, car, store, locker, or other property. In the following situations, the police can search without a warrant:
- If a person gives permission for the search.
- If the police are searching a home for a dangerous person or fugitive.
- If an arrest has been made---a thorough search will be made to look for weapons and assure evidence will not be destroyed.
- If the police believe a weapon is in a car, they can search unlocked parts.
- If the driver is arrested, the police can search any part of the car (trunk, locked glove compartment, etc.).
- If you are involved in a search or seizure of items, cooperate with the police. Pay attention to what is happening and remember as many details as you can---you may have to say what happened later in court.
Taking things that do not belong to you without the permission of their owner is theft. When merchandise is taken from a store, it is called “shoplifting.” There is no difference between shoplifting and theft---the penalties are the same. Teens convicted of theft can be fined and/or sent to prison.
Weapon laws vary according to city and state. In Houston, the penalty for the possession of a weapon (except for those with a permit) is up to one year in jail and a fine of at least $4,000. A young person who is found to have a gun or other weapon can be arrested and charged with possession of a concealed weapon. It is against the law to have a concealed weapon without the proper permit. People under 18 cannot carry or be given permits to carry concealed weapons.
If you have any legal questions, call the numbers to the right to find out more information.
Gulf Coast Legal Foundation
Children’s Rights Unit which assists young people to protect their rights. Call for more information or to make an appointment.
Juvenile Law Clinic
Free legal services to youth who qualify under family income guidelines. Call for more information.