Active duty U.S. military personnel in Texas would be able to purchase and drink alcoholic beverages beginning at age 18

Active duty U.S. military personnel in Texas would be able to purchase and drink alcoholic beverages beginning at age 18 years under legislation that has been filed by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

House Bill 3831 would lower the drinking age from 21 to 18 in Texas, but only for men and women who are serving their country in the U.S. armed forces, allowing them to purchase and be served those beverages anywhere in the state.

Such military servicemen and servicewomen would still be subject to all other state laws relating to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, including punishments for driving under the influence and public intoxication.

They also would have to show valid military identification proving they are on active duty.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the Common Access Card (CAC), a “smart” card about the size of a credit card, is the standard identification for active duty uniformed service personnel, Selected Reserve, DoD civilian employees, and eligible contractor personnel. It is also the principal card used to enable physical access to buildings and controlled spaces, and it provides access to DoD computer networks and systems.

“These young men and women bravely volunteer to defend our country against the tyrants, despots, and dictators of the world, they receive the best hand-to-hand combat training, they handle the most sophisticated weapons and weapon systems on the planet, and they are required to meet the highest standards of conduct in their profession,” said Canales. “Surely they have earned the right to have a mixed drink, beer or wine when they leave their military bases to come into our towns and cities, just like anyone who is at least 21 years of age can enjoy.”

Canales’ HB 3831 is the latest attempt in Texas to lower the drinking age for active duty military veterans, the House District 40 state lawmaker said.

Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, filed House Bill 892 during the 83rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature in 2013. However, that measure never received a public hearing before the House Committee
on Licensing and Administrative Procedures, and the proposal died.

Canales’ legislation, HB 3831, which was filed on Friday, March 13 – the last day to introduce legislation – is awaiting upcoming referral to a House committee.

“Texas has some pretty tough laws to crack down on DWI, and even laws that can result in a $500 fine for a driver or a passenger to have an open alcohol container in a vehicle, and I strongly support those laws,” said Canales, who is a member of the crime-fighting House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. “But trying to play ‘nanny’ to U.S. military professionals is nonsense. They should be treated as adults in every sense of the word.”

Canales said he would offer an amendment to his bill to make the law contingent on Texas getting a waiver from the federal government that would keep federal transportation funding in place. The U.S. government has a policy that it will deny a portion of federal transportation money for states which lower the drinking age from 21 to 18.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 punishes any state that allows persons younger than 21 years to purchase and publicly possess alcoholic beverages by reducing its annual federal highway funding to that state by 10 percent.

The Law on DWI

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in Texas, a person is legally intoxicated and may be arrested and charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) with a .08 BAC (blood or breath alcohol concentration). However, a person is also intoxicated if impaired due to alcohol or other drugs regardless of BAC.

Whether the person is the driver or the passenger, that individual can be fined up to $500 for having an open alcohol container in a vehicle.

DWI with a Child Passenger

A motorist can be charged with child endangerment for driving while intoxicated if they are carrying passengers younger than 15 years old. DWI with a child passenger is punishable by:

• A fine of up to $10,000;
• Up to two years in a state jail; and
• Loss of driver license for 180 days.

What Happens if Stopped

If a motorist is stopped, that individual must be ready to show a driver license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. If a person refuses to take a blood or breath test, the driver license will be automatically suspended for 180 days.

Punishment for DWI varies depending on the number of convictions:

First Offense

• A fine of up to $2,000;
• Three days to 180 days in jail;
• Loss of driver license up to a year; and
• Annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license.

Second Offense*

• A fine of up to $4,000;
• One month to a year in jail;
• Loss of driver license up to two years; and
• Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license

Third Offense*

• A $10,000 fine;
• Two to 10 years in prison;
• Loss of driver license up to two years; and
• Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license.

*After two or more DWI convictions in five years, an individual must install a special ignition switch that prevents their vehicle from being operated if that person has been drinking.

How to Stay Safe

• Don’t drink and drive.
• Designate a driver.
• Call a cab.
• Spend the night where you are, if possible.

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