House Bill amends provisions for minors with alcohol offenses

Albert Zhao

During his first semester at UT, Jason Taylor woke up in a holding cell with no idea how he got there. Charged with public intoxication, the psychology alumnus said he only remembered dropping off his date at her dorm and blacking out afterward. When he woke up, he was struck with the sobering fear that a potential employer could see his record.

On Thursday afternoon, the Texas House of Representatives tentatively approved House Bill 2059, filed by state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, which would make it easier for minors to remove first-time alcohol offenses if no further offenses are committed by age 21. 

Under the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Code, a minor can currently file an expunction request to clear first-time alcohol convictions usually without hiring a lawyer. 

Taylor, who was convicted of public intoxication, was able to work with Legal Services for Students to clear his record.

“It was cheaper than getting a lawyer,” Taylor said. “At that time, I just didn’t want employers or anyone to see and make pre-judgments based on bad behavior.”

However, minors with only citations don’t share the same legal privileges, making offenses such as consumption of alcohol as a minor more expensive and difficult to clear, Phillips said.

“(Minors) that didn’t get convicted, to get (alcohol offenses) expunged, they have to pay (a) several hundred dollars district court filing fee (and) go to district court,” Phillips said during a House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee hearing on April 3. “You have to have a lawyer and go through that whole process.” 

Employers won’t find out about citations — such as a ticket for underaged drinking — through state background checks because they don’t pick these up, said Sylvia Holmes, associate director for Legal Services for Students. The only record of the citation will be in the specific court that handled the offense, which is not a student’s criminal record, Holmes said. 

“If money is tight and you’re concerned and you don’t have an arrest record and you got one of these underage drinking tickets … you should (instead) buy yourself a new interview suit and a good haircut and new shoes for that interview,” Holmes said.

One more procedural vote in the House will send the bill to the Senate for a committee hearing. If passed, it will go into effect no later than Sept. 1.