Texas alcohol laws can be broken into two categories: laws affecting only people under 21 and laws affecting EVERYONE regardless of their age. Some crimes can only be committed by people who are under the age of 21. Those crimes include being a Minor in Consumption (MIC), Minor in Possession (MIP), Misrepresenting Age, and Driving Under the Influence (NOT the same thing as Driving While Intoxicated.)
It is possible for someone under the age of 21 to be guilty of multiple alcohol charges at the same time. Example: A 19 year old student attends a house party and has multiple drinks in a short time, becoming very intoxicated. The police arrive to break up the party and spot this 19 year old holding a can of beer. The police could charge that student with being a Minor in Consumption (for having already drank alcohol), a Minor in Possession (for still having a beer in their hand and being at a party where alcohol is available) and for Public Intoxication (student had so many drinks that they are drunk).
Minor in Consumption (MIC) - You cannot drink any alcohol if you are not 21 years old. One sip is too much and can get you in trouble with the police. An officer can write you a MIC ticket just for smelling alcohol on your breath. No sobriety test is necessary. This is a Class C ticket and will not result in an arrest.
Minor in Possession (MIP) - You cannot have free access to alcohol. This means being in an apartment, hotel room, party, etc. where alcohol is available and you are free to help yourself. As a result, it is not necessary for the police to actually witness you holding or drinking alcohol. You can be ticketed simply for being in an apartment when a keg is present. Common scenarios can include students standing at a table watching beer pong being played and students who agree to hold a friend's drink while they go to the bathroom. If you share an apartment or dorm room with someone who is 21, they cannot leave alcohol in the fridge or you may be ticketed for being in possession. It does not matter that you never intended to drink their alcohol because if you wanted to drink it, there would be no way to prevent you from getting it out of the cooler and that puts you in possession. It also means that your roommate could be ticketed for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor. This is a Class C ticket and will not result in an arrest.
Misrepresentation of Age (Misrep) - You cannot lie about your age to buy alcohol or get into bars. This is NOT the same thing as having a Fake ID. Misrepresenting your age is simply lying or causing someone to believe you are older than 21. Examples include sneaking into bars that have a 21 year old age requirement, telling a clerk in a liquor store that you forgot your ID but were born before 1990, and using a concert wristband that indicates you are older than 21. Simply being present in a bar that requires patrons to be 21 years old is a misrepresentation of age. This is a Class C ticket and will not result in an arrest.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) - If you are under 21 and have consumed any amount of alcohol before driving, you are guilty of Driving of the Influence. This is not the same thing as Driving While Intoxicated. DUI is a charge for people under 21 who have consumed any alcohol but are not intoxicated. DUI is a Class C ticket that will not result in an arrest. DWI is a crime committed by people of any age who have drank so much that they are impaired while driving. DWI is a minimum Class B misdemeanor and will result in you being immediately arrested and your car being towed.
Public Intoxication (P.I.) - Anyone, regardless of age, can be arrested for public intoxication. The definition of public intoxication relies heavily on the police officer's opinion. If the officer believes, due to their training and experience, that you have consumed so much alcohol as to be a threat to yourself or others, you are publicly intoxicated and will be arrested. If a police officer indicates that you are being charged with P.I., there isn't usually anything you can say to change their mind. In fact, too much arguing with the officer can result in additional charges of "Resisting Arrest" and "Failure to Obey Lawful Order." If you believe that you are being charged by mistake, politely tell the officer that you disagree and then use your right to remain silent. It is better to be quiet and leave a question as to your innocence than to speak up and erase all doubt. Public Intoxication is a Class C ticket but it DOES require an immediate arrest and puts a permanent blemish on your criminal record.
Possession of Fake ID (Fake ID) - In addition to simply lying about your age (Misrepresentation of Age), you might also be tempted to get a false identification card that claims you to be older. Depending on the type of fake ID and the sophistication of its duplicity, you may be arrested for either a Fake ID or Tampering with a Government Record. A Fake ID charge is a Class A misdemeanor that will result in an arrest, permanent blemish on your criminal record, and the need for an attorney. Tampering with a Government Record is a Felony charge that also requires an arrest and assistance from a licensed attorney.
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) - Drunk driving is one of the most serious and common crimes commited by students. DWI laws are lengthy and vary based on the facts of each case. Crimes in which another person is injured or blood alcohol tests indicate the driver was extremely intoxicated will result in higher charges and additional punishment. A standard first-offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by arrest, up to $1000 fine, and 1 year in jail. In addition to the fine and possible jail time, you will also have to $3000 in surcharges to the Department of Public Safety in order to maintain your driver license. If you fail to pay the surcharges, you can be arrested and charged with another Class B misdemeanor for "Driving on a Suspended License". For FAQs on what to do if stopped by the police, click HERE.
Marijuana and other narcotic drugs are illegal in Texas. Punishment ranges vary widely depending on the substance and amount possessed. The most common drug charges faced by students are Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Possession of a Controlled Substance. A conviction for drug possession or drug paraphernalia will prohibit you from receiving any federal student financial aid and government housing. This means you could lose your school loans now and be banned from a retirement home 50 years later when you're retired and on Medicare.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (PODP) - Any and all objects that have been used to prepare, inhale, inject, or use drugs can be considered drug paraphernalia. This includes obvious items like marijuana pipes, water pipes (bongs), roach clips, dirty needles, and grinders. It can also include less obvious objects like paper clips, aluminum cans, knives, lighters, and toothpicks. Whether or not a particular item could be considered paraphernalia requires looking at the totality of the circumstances. An ashtray and toothpicks do not automatically equal drug paraphernalia, but they will if the ashtray has marijuana stems and the toothpick is dirty with marijuana residue. PODP is a Class C ticketable offense that is punishable by fine.
Possession of Marijuana (POM) - Possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor that will result in an arrest and can be punished with up to $2000 fine and six months in jail. Possession of more than 2 ounces but less than 4 ounces is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by arrest, up to one year in jail, and a $4000 fine. More than four ounces is a felony level charge and can result in prison time and a fine exceeding $10,000. It is not necessary for a police officer to discover marijuana on your person or in your bag for them to charge you with possession. You can also be arrested if you are driving a car and your friend brings weed along; if you share an apartment and your roommate leaves their weed in the living room; if you go to an outdoor festival and sit in a circle while other people use drugs.
Odor of marijuana is the only evidence necessary for a police officer to search a vehicle's cabin, any bags/purses/boxes inside the cabin, and the glove compartment. Odor of marijuana is also enough to allow the officer to search your person and any other occupants in your car. If the officer does not discover illegal drugs or paraphernalia in the vehicle cabin, they cannot then search the trunk unless you consent. You never have to consent to a search of your vehicle. It may be scary or difficult to deny a police officer, but click HERE for tips to make it easier.
NOTICE: In 2013, the states of Colorado and Washington elected to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Tourists to both states may be able to purchase marijuana and use it while in those states. However, marijuana continues to be illegal in Texas. Anyone caught bringing marijuana into Texas from another state is guilty of transporting drugs and could be arrested for a felony drug offense. Do NOT take this risk.
Possession of Controlled Substance (POCS) - Possession of illegal narcotics (cocaine, ecstasy, LSC, mushrooms, etc.) is a felony crime punishable anywhere from 2-99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Prescription pills like Adderall, Xanax, and Ritalin are also considered controlled substances and require you to have a valid prescription (meaning it's not expired and is in your name, not someone else). If you are caught with just one Adderall pill that you don't have an active prescription for, you will be arrested and charged with a 3rd Degree Felony. This will create a permanent blemish on your criminal record and could result in you being expelled from school. Do not share or sell study drugs.
Receiving a traffic ticket can be very scary, especially if it's the first time. If you've received many tickets before, another one may just be annoying. Regardless, there are many steps that you will need to take in order to resolve the ticket properly. The good news is that most traffic tickets can be dismissed if you are willing to take a class and pay a fine. All traffic tickets are Class C misdemeanors punishable by up to $500 fine and possible suspension of driving privileges. There is no jail time associated with traffic tickets and many are automatically eligible for dismissal with a Driver Safety Course (commonly called Defensive Driving). If you have received a traffic ticket, follow these steps to easily resolve the matter.
Using or possessing a prescription drug without having a valid, active prescription is illegal. If you are caught using or possessing even one prescription pill without a doctor's permission, you will be arrested and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance (POCS). The minimum punishment range is a Third Degree Felony with 2-10 years jail and up to $10,000 fine. A conviction for drug possession will prevent you from receiving federal student financial aid and ban you from receiving certain government benefits in the future. Even if you are successful in avoiding a conviction, the arrest record and criminal court case will remain on your public criminal history until you spend more money to have it expunged.
It is also a Felony crime to give or sell prescription drugs to another person. This constitutes practicing medicine without a license and can result in multiple Felony charges being filed against the student. Do NOT give or sell any prescription medicines to another person. A common example is a student who gives their roommate/friend a few study pills to help them during finals. Both the giver and the receiver have committed a crime.
The criminal court process has many steps. The first step is to be accused of a crime (arrest), the second step is to defend yourself (hire a lawyer), and the final step is to resolve the case (serve probation, have charges reduced, acquitted by a jury, dismissal, etc.) All arrests create criminal records that indicate the date of arrest, any charges/crimes you were accused of, and what the final outcome of each case/charge was. If your case is dismissed and you take no further steps, the record of your arrest, criminal charge, and ultimate dismissal will be a public record that anyone in the world can access and read. You cannot deny being arrested and cannot deny having resolved the issue in court. If you want to have the records erased from public records (known as an expunction), you must spend money to file a lawsuit (called a Petition) with the court and ask for your records to be erased. In order to be eligible for an expunction, you cannot have been convicted of any crime related to the arrest and you cannot have served formal probation.
Who can get an expunction? - If your case was dismissed and you did not serve formal probation, you may be eligible to expunge the record related to the charge. If you were arrested for a misdemeanor crime, you must wait at least 2 years from the date of your arrest before you can petition the court and ask for an expunction. This is called the Statute of Limitations. For felony charges, the statute of limitations ranges from 4 years - 10 years. Contact us @ (512) 245-2370 to schedule an appointment and find out if you are eligible.
How much does an expunction cost? Prices will vary slightly from county to county, but you can assume at least $300 in filing fees with the Court and $700-$100 for the lawyer. You may be able to handle the filing and court appearances without an attorney. To find out more information, contact us @ (512) 245-2370.
Can I deny the entire incident after it's been expunged? Probably. Texas laws say that, in most circumstances, you can legally deny the incident once it's been expunged. Applying for jobs with private companies, renting an apartment, buying a car, and applying for a credit card are examples of situations in which you could deny that the arrest/charge ever occurred. However, if you are applying to graduate school or to be licensed in a profession (doctor, lawyer, teacher, police, masseuse, etc.) it may be best for you to disclose the situation. The reason is one of honesty and morality; most jobs that require a license also require that you swear an oath to be honest and fully disclose all negative information. If you swear to be truthful but do not disclose negative info, and the graduate school or licensing finds out anyways, you can be denied admission and licensing for dishonesty. It won't be a denial because you got in trouble years earlier; it will be a denial because you deceived the school/licensing board when you had promised to be truthful.
Will an expunction erase all the records? Only the official public records will be destroyed by an expunction. Records with for-profit background companies may still exist and the internet is an all-knowing history machine that never gets rid of information. There is absolutely no way to completely erase the event from the internet or from people's memories.
If you are accused or arrested for theft, it is very important that you seek immediate advice from an attorney. A conviction for any theft charge is considered a crime of moral turpitude and can prevent you from receiving a wide range of jobs and benefits. The phrase "crime of moral turpitude" is given to criminal acts which are considered especially harmful to society and that usually involve an element of dishonesty.
A person commits theft when they exercise, or attempt to exercise, control over property or services they do not own or have the right to possess. (Texas Penal Code Sec. 31.03) Theft crimes ranges in punishment from Class C misdemeanors (punishable only by fine) to 1st Degree Felonies (punishable with prison) depending on the amount of property stolen (see below). In addition to the criminal court penalties and fines, a student convicted of shoplifting may also receive civil demands for damages supposedly suffered by the store. These letters are often from law firms with long names and imply that a person could get in additional trouble if they do not pay the fine demanded immediately. In many situations, these types of civil demands are illegal and unenforceable. If you receive a similar letter, do NOT pay any money until you have spoken with an attorney. Contact the AFS office at (512) 245-2370 to schedule a free appointment.
Punishment Ranges for Theft Offenses
Class C Misdemeanor if the value of the property is less than $50 (or $20 if acquired by check)
Class B Misdemeanor if the value of the property was $50 to $500 (or between $20 and $500 if acquired by check)
Class A Misdemeanor if the value of the property was $500 to $1,500
State Jail Felony if the value was $1,500 to $20,000 or the item stolen was a firearm or the theft was off of a person
Third Degree Felony if the value of the property was $20,000 and $100,000
Second Degree Felony if the value of the property was $100, 000 and $200,000
First Degree Felony if the value of the property is over $200,000.
Texas State University Ramifications - If the conduct in question occurs on campus, then the student would be referred to the office of Student Justice and will be handled on a case by case basis based on the Texas State Code of Student Conduct. If the student's conduct occurs off campus, then based on the severity of the incident, it may also be referred to the office of Student Justice. The range of sanctions are listed on page 54, Section 3.02 (Student Policies and Regulations) of the Texas State Student Handbook.
Real Life Examples:
Protect the Donut - Student went to grocery store; took two donuts out of the case; ate one donut while shopping; only paid for one donut when checking out. Student was stopped at the door by security and ticketed for theft of $0.50. Student had to spend $300 in court fines and class expenses to have ticket for 50 cent donut dismissed.
Smells Fishy - Student went to high end natural grocery store; chose 32 items including a bottle of wine, recycled paper napkins, bag of salad mix, candles, and frozen fish; put all the items in a shopping bag and proceeded to walk out the front door as though they had paid for the items. Student was stopped in the parking lot by officers and arrested for Class B theft. Student tried to justify the theft by saying it was for a romantic anniversary dinner with their partner. The police and the store owner were not sympathetic.
One of the most important privileges given to students in Texas is a driver's license. There is no constitutional right to drive in America. Rather, driving on the highway is a privilege given to you by the state where you live. Because driving is a privilege, your state can put any restrictions and requirements on that privilege that it deems necessary. Among other things, Texas requires a driver to renew this privilege every few years, to carry a license with them anytime they operate a vehicle, to maintain liability insurance, and to have their vehicle inspected regularly. Students who disobey these requirements may lose their driving privileges.
How do I get a license? If you are over the age of 25, it is very easy to get a license to drive in Texas. You must apply in person, pay a fee, provide proof of citizenship or lawful residency, and pass a written exam about traffic rules. For complete information and details about the application process, visit the Texas Department of Public Safety @ http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/ApplyforLicense.htm
Do I have to carry my license with me all the time? Yes, you must have your driver's license with you anytime you operate a motor vehicle.
Must I show my license to an officer? Yes. If an officer asks you to identify yourself and present a photo ID, you must obey. You can decline to answer other questions, but you must identify yourself by name and present your ID when asked.
What is the point system? Texas wants every driver on the road to have insurance and obey the law. The point system is a method used by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to grade drivers based on their driving and criminal records. If you are accused of breaking the law while using your car, you may be convicted and required to pay fines and court costs. IN ADDITION to any fines or court costs, a conviction for certain moving violations will cause DPS to put 2 points on your driving record. If you receive 6 points in a 3 years period, your driver's license will be automatically suspended for having too many points and you will incur a $150 yearly surcharge for the next three years. For more information about the point system, including which tickets carry points, visit the DPS website @http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/drp.htm
What are surcharges? In 2003, the Texas Driver Responsibility Program was enacted to provide additional funding for public education by fining certain drivers a surcharge. Surcharges are fines charged by Texas DPS to punish you for having been convicted of a crime involving the use a vehicle. These fines are IN ADDITION to any fine or court costs that you may have paid or owe to the criminal court.
Example: You receive a ticket for not having insurance (Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility). You plead No Contest and pay a $300 fine to the San Marcos Municipal Court. Because you were convicted of a ticket that involved the use of a vehicle, Texas DPS also charges you $250 to keep your driver's license in good standing. You owe this $250 each year for the next 3 years. If you fail to pay the $750 surcharges, your driving privileges will be suspended and, if caught driving, you will be arrested for driving without a license.
What if I never pay the surcharges? You cannot legally drive in Texas until the surcharges are paid or removed. If you move to another state, you will likely be denied driving privileges in that state because most states uphold the suspensions and revocations of driving privilege of another state (it's known as full faith & credit). Essentially, you cannot avoid paying these fines forever. If you cannot afford to pay the surcharges, you may be eligible for a reduced fine. For more information about the surcharge system, including how to apply for a reduced fine, visit the DPS website @ http://www.txsurchargeonline.com/(S(123egpmlujgdd1vnnyje0fh4))/default.aspx
Help! My license has been suspended/revoked. Is there a legal way for me to keep driving? Maybe. If you have an essential need to use a vehicle, you may be eligible to apply for an Occupational License. This is a special type of driver's license with limited privileges that allow a driver to use the vehicle only for the purposes of going to work, school, medical appointments, or to care for minor children.
How do I apply for an Occupational License? You will need to file an application with a court in the county where you live, pay a filing fee, purchase a special type of insurance known as SR-22 coverage, and prove to the court that you have an essential need to use a car. Proof of need can usually be established with proof of employment, proof of school enrollment, or proof of familial responsibilities. Call AFS at (512) 245-2370 to schedule an appointment for help understanding the law, deciding if you qualify for an occupational license, and assistance with the court paperwork.
Crimes commited by one person against another are often classified as assaults under Texas law. The punishment range for a particular crime is related to the nature of the crime and the severity of damage caused to the victim. Texas law provides enhanced punishments for crimes that involved a sexual act or was committed against a member of the perpetrator's immediate family or household.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual crime, please know that the Attorney for Students office is a safe location and we will maintain your confidentiality at all times. You can contact the office between 8am-5pm, Monday-Friday via phone @ (512) 245-2370 or email @ firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, you can also visit the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault @ http://www.taasa.org/.
Assault - The term "assault" can be used to describe any situation in which you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly injure or threaten to injure another person. This is broad enough to include mere threats of violence if an ordinary person would have been frightened by the statement.
Example: An athletic, well built student goes to a bar to watch sporting event and gets into angry discussion with another patron about the game. The other patron is much smaller and shorter than the student. The student points his finger at the patron and angrily yells "I'm going punch you out right now if you don't admit the Astros are horrible team!" An off-duty police officer overhears the student's threat and tickets the student for assault.
Aggravated Assault - An assault crime can be enhanced if it is alleged that the victim suffered serious bodily injury or if a deadly weapon was used.
Example: A student gets into an argument with a patron at a sports bar. The student picks up their empty beer bottle by the neck, breaks it in half on the table, and begins shaking threateningly it at the patron while yelling "I'm going hit you if you don't admit the Astros are horrible team!" An off-duty police officer witnesses the situation and arrests the student for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon.
Domestic Violence - Domestic violence is also known as family violence and is a term used to classify assault crimes that require enhanced punishments. Any assault crime will be considered a domestic violence crime if it is alleged to have been committed against a member of your immediate family, a resident in your household, or someone with whom you are currently dating or used to date.
Example: A student moves into their new apartment. The next day they get into a shouting match with their new roommate over dirty dishes. In a moment of anger, the student slaps the hand of the roommate. A neighbor heard the yelling and called the police. The police arrive and arrest the angry student for Assault - Domestic Violence.
Sexual Assault - The term sexual assault includes a wide range of crimes against another person and can generally be thought of as any crime involving unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against another person. Under Texas law, all forcible sex crimes, including rape, are classified as a sexual assaults with Aggravated Sexual Assault being the worst offense. Sexual assault crimes carry a punishment range of 2 to 20 years. Offenses involving minors may also require the defendant be registered as a sex offender in state and national databases.
Rape - Texas law defines rape as an Aggravated Sexual Assault and makes it illegal for anyone to intentionally or knowingly penetrate a person under the age of 17, other than his spouse. The defendant has an affirmative defense if the victim is not more than three years older than the victim, who must be at least 14 years old.
Incest - Sexual contact between family members is illegal. The Texas law defining what constitutes a family member is broad and includes immediate family members like parents and siblings, stepparents and stepchildren, adopted children, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Crimes against one's own children is a first degree felony; crimes committed against another family member are second degree felonies.
Harassment - The term "harassment" is often used in popular culture describe any situation in which someone is bothering or annoying another person. However, those situations rarely match the legal definition of harassment. Texas law prohibits someone from knowingly and repeatedly contacting another person with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass that person. Harassment is charged as a Class B misdemeanor for first offenses. If you feel that another person is harassing you, please contact the AFS office to schedule a free and confidential appointment to discuss the law and your options. It is never too early to seek help when you are concerned about harassment.
Stalking - Any person who repeatedly and knowingly causes another person to fear for their physical safety, the physical safety of a family member, or the safety of their personal possessions may be guilty of 3rd Degree Felony stalking. If you are concerned for yourself or someone else, it is never to early to seek help from an attorney. If you are immediate danger, please contact the local police department now.
Links to information related to selected Texas criminal statutes.
Links to sexual assault legal guide.
Links to information regarding drug and alcohol policies of Texas State.
Link to schedule of fines can be found at the bottom of the San Marcos Municipal website, as well as an online warrant search and online payment options.
Links to information about Traffic and Misdemeanor Fine Schedules.
Links to information regarding New Braunfels Municipal Court Fines.
Link to a list of Texas sexual assault services as maintained by the Texas Attorney General's office.
Links to RAINN, homepage of the website of an anti-sexual assault organization. Includes information about 'what should I do' if you are sexually assaulted.
Before you apply for a job, it is advised to do a background check on yourself as you don't want any surprises out there (sometimes people are victims of identity theft and criminal records pop up when you least expect it). This is the link to the FBI website explaining how to get one.
Local area women's center who can assist with protective orders, child custody, visitation, and abuse prevention.
From IH-35: Take Exit 202/Wonder World Drive/RR 12 on the south side of San Marcos and turn west. Go over the railroad track overpass and at the bottom make an immediate right (north) on South Stagecoach Trail.
From Hunter Road/FM 2439: Turn east on Wonder World Drive/RR 12 toward I-35. Turn left (north) on South Stagecoach Trail at the bottom of the railroad overpass.
The Government Center is on the right at the end of the street. All walk-in visitors must enter through the front entrance (shown above) and go through Security checkpoints. There is a drive-thru for Tax Office services on the east side of the building.