New Mexico Alcohol Laws: Learn the Laws & Avoid Jail

This page will help you understand New Mexico alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Not to mention time and embarrassment.

New Mexico alcohol laws apply to its residents and visitors. Because laws in the state may differ from those visitors know. So it’s good to learn  them and avoid legal problems.     


I.   Minimum Age Law
II.  Other Alcohol Laws
III. Resources
IV.  Get Good Advice

I. Minimum Age Laws

Young  people often want part-time jobs. Hospitality provides many. Some involve alcohol. What age is needed to serve alcohol in a restaurant? For tending bar? What about for selling alcohol for use elsewhere? Young people want answers. So we provide facts to help them.

New Mexico alcohol laws permit adults age 19 or older to serve alcohol in venues for drinking on-site. They must be at least 21 to tend bar. The same is true to sell alcohol for off-site drinking.

Those of any age under 21 may drink alcohol given by a parent, guardian or spouse 21 or older.  It must be on property other than premises licensed to sell alcohol. And the drinking must be under the control of the server. Many parents do this to demystify alcohol and teach moderation.

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 is to buy any alcoholic beverage. Using a false ID to buy alcohol is a crime. It is also criminal to lend, transfer, or sell a false ID.

It is illegal for those under 21 to drive with a BAC over 0.02.

II. Other New Mexico Alcohol Laws

A. Selling Alcohol

new mexico alcohol lawsBusinesses licensed to sell alcohol for drinking on- site may do so Mondays from 7:00 a.m. until midnight. On Tuesdays through Saturdays from after midnight of the previous day until 2:00 a.m. Then from 7:00 a.m. until midnight. On Sundays they may sell only after midnight of the previous day until 2:00 a.m.

Businesses licensed to sell alcohol for use off-site have different hours. They may sell on Mondays through Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. until midnight.

Local option laws permit local areas to modify days and times of sales. Also land under control by Indian nations, tribes or pueblos determine their own alcohol laws.

The state permits Sunday sales of alcohol at resorts and at horse racetracks.

new mexico alcohol lawsIt’a a violation of New Mexico alcohol laws to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21. That includes adults 18, 19, and 20 years old. There’s no exception for those adults serving in the US military. It’s also a criminal act to sell to an obviously intoxicated person.

There are penalties for selling alcohol to anyone either under 21 or obviously intoxicated within a twelve month period. A first offense results in a fine of $1,000 to $2,000. The state also prohibits all alcohol sales for one business day.

A second offense causes a fine of $2,000 to $3,000. This time the state prevents all alcohol sales for seven business days. If a third offense occurs, the fine is $10,000 and revocation of the alcohol license.

B. Buying Alcohol

It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol. But persons under 21 may do so to help police entrap clerks or servers. Police arrest and charge with a felony the clerks or servers who sell to them .

Police also have those under 21 stand outside alcohol retailers. They hand people money and ask them to buy alcohol for them. Police then arrest those who do so and charge them with a felony.

It’s a violation of New Mexico alcohol laws to use a false ID to buy alcohol. Or to try to buy it. And it’s also illegal to loan, give, or sell an ID card to anyone under 21.

But a parent, guardian or spouse 21 or older may buy and serve alcohol to the person under that age. But they may not served it on licensed premises.

C. Driving and Alcohol

New Mexico alcohol laws prohibit driving while intoxicated (DWI). It’s illegal for anyone age 21 or older to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. On the other hand, for those under 21, it’s 0.02% or higher. And for commercial drivers, it’s 0.04%.

If a breath tester suggests a BAC is 0.08% or higher, police revoke the driver’s license on the spot. (Breath testers don’t actually measure BAC. They only estimate it. And they do so indirectly.) For more, see False Breath Tester Results Caused by Many Common Things.

Yet being under that limit does not insure against arrest. All it takes is for police to think the driver is too impaired to drive safely.

new mexico alcohol lawsOn the other hand many alcoholics develop alcohol tolerance. They can prove that they have not impairment well above 0.08%. But they may not present that evidence in their defense.

All drivers have a Constitutional right to decline taking a chemical BAC test. But the state punishes those who use their right. To do so it revokes their license on the spot. And it does so even if they are completely sober. The revocation is for one year. The state also denies any driving with restrictions for work, school, or other essentials. Obviously, that can create severe problems.


The exact penalties for DWI depend on the facts and the specific judge. But here are the general guidelines.

First DWI Offense

For a first offense, the driver’s license is suspended for one year. There is a BAC test fee of $65 and a fine of up to $500. Also, the offender faces community service and the cost of mandated alcohol screening and treatment.

Second DWI Offense

A second offense incurs greater penalties.The license suspension is foe two years. Jail is for 96 hours to 364 days and the fine is up to $1,000. Plus the BAC test fee of $65 and the cost of required screening and treatment. Also there’s community service.

Third DWI Offense

new mexico alcohol lawsFor a third offense, the license is suspended for three years. Jail is 30 to 364 days. The maximum fine, BAC test fee, community service, and cost of screening and treatment remain the same.

Fourth DWI Offense

A fourth offense carries a lifetime license suspension. Jail is six to 18 months and the maximum fine is $5,000. Also, the BAC test fee and cost of screening and treatment are the same.

Aggravated DWI Offenses

Aggravated DWI offenses are from a DWI of 0.16 or over. Or from any DWI causing injury or death. It also results when drivers use their Constitutional right not to submit to a chemical BAC test (estimator).

A first offense of aggravated DWI results in an additional required jail of 48 hours. If a second offense occurs, the additional jail is 96 hours. And if a third occurs, it’s 60 hours of additional jail.

D. Boating and Alcohol

new mexico alcohol lawsNew Mexico alcohol laws prohibit anyone boating while intoxicated (BWI). Boating refers to operating any vessel. It also includes using water skis, wakeboards, kneeboards, or similar devices.

Intoxication is having a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

Aggravated BWI exists when an operator has a BAC of 0.16% or higher. Or when another person has bodily injury or worse as a result of BWI.

A first conviction of BWI leads to jail for up to 90 days. Also a fine up to $500, or both. Also offenders must complete a boating safety course.

Second or later convictions receive a penalty of up to 364 days in jail. There’s also a fine up to $750, or both.

Aggravated BWI carry additional penalties. The state punishes operators who choose to use their right not to submit to a chemical BAC test. To do so it charges them with aggravated BWI.

III. Resources on New Mexico Alcohol Laws

IV. Advice about New Mexico Alcohol Laws

New Mexico alcohol laws can be ambiguous. This is true in all states. Lawyers spend years in law school. So do not rely on this site. Nor on any others.

And beware. Family may give advice. Colleagues may give opinions. Neighbors may give suggestions. Smile and thank them. Then ignore their advice about New Mexico alcohol laws. That is unless they’re lawyers. Their advice is worth what you paid for it. That is, nothing.

Get information and advice about Mew Mexico alcohol laws from an expert. That is a lawyer with a license in the state. Better yet, get one who only does DWI defense locally.