Texas Alcohol Laws: Big State, Many Laws: Know Them

This page will help you understand Texas alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Also, wasted time and legal costs.

Texas alcohol laws apply to its residents. And also to visitors. Texas is the second most populous state. It’s also the second largest in area.

Not surprisingly, Texas alcohol laws vary widely over its vast expanse. Over 50 counties in Texas are “dry.” That is, they prohibit alcohol sales. Discover more about dry counties.

In some counties it’s legal to sell beer but not wine in grocery stores. It’s confusing. In other places it’s illegal to sell beer in stores but not in restaurants. In one town, it’s legal to sell alcohol in the part of town that’s in one county. But not in the part located in another county.

This makes it hard to know Texas alcohol laws.

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

Discover the story of Impact, Texas – A surprising  one!

I. Minimum Age Laws

Many young people want part-time jobs. They ask about the ages required for jobs around alcohol. What are the ages for tending bar? For serving alcohol in restaurants? For selling alcohol in stores for drinking elsewhere?

Texas alcohol laws permit adults aged 18 or older to tend bar. They may also serve alcohol in a venue for drinking on-site.

Those 16 or older may sell beer and wine in stores selling it for drinking elsewhere. They must be age 21 to sell distilled spirits (liquor) in such businesses.

Standard Drinks

This law reflects a myth. It’s that spirits have more alcohol.  But standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits all have the same amount of pure alcohol. Each has six-tenths of an ounce. They’re all equal in alcohol content.

Those under 21 may not buy alcohol. And it’s a crime to use a false ID to buy it. Or to try to buy it.

It is illegal for those under 21 to drive with any alcohol in the bloodstream. Their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) must be 0.00%.

Texas alcohol laws permit drinking by those of any age below 21. It must be in the visible presence of a parent, guardian, or spouse at least 21. Many parents do this to demystify alcohol and promote moderation. It appears to work.

II. Other Texas Alcohol Laws

A. Selling Alcohol

It’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone, including adults, under age 21.

Licensed businesses may sell beer and wine from 7:00 a.m. until midnight on Monday through Friday. They may sell them from 7:00 a.m. until 1:00 on Saturday. And on Sunday they may sell from noon until midnight. But only liquor stores may sell spirits.

Restaurants may sell alcohol on Sundays before noon if it’s paired with food. And it’s illegal to sell any beverage anywhere on Sunday that is over 17% alcohol by volume (ABV).

No place may sell any alcohol on Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day or Christmas Day.

A restaurant or other retailer can’t sell alcohol from only one producer. Nor can food trucks sell any alcohol.

Confusing Texas Alcohol Laws

The many dry counties in Texas can cause confusion. Yet that’s only the beginning of the patchwork of the state’s complex drinking laws.

The Star-Telegram noted the complexities .

In some counties, only 4 percent beer is legal. In others, beverages that are 14 percent or less alcohol are legal. And in some “dry” areas, you can get a mixed drink by paying to join a “private club.” In some “wet” areas you still need a club membership to get liquor-by-the-drink.1

B. Buying Alcohol

texas alcohol laws

Customers may not use coupons to buy alcohol in Texas.

It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol. The use of a false ID, possessing alcohol, or drinking it are also all illegal.

The penalty for any of these offenses is a license suspension for 30 days. For a second offense it’s a license suspension for 60 days. If a third offense occurs, the license suspension is for 180 days. Also, a judge can order attending an Alcohol Education Program as well as community service.

It’s also illegal to buy alcohol for a person under the age of 21. Yet a spouse 21 or older may buy alcohol for the spouse who’s under that age. The older spouse assumes the guardianship of the younger partner.

Drinking alcohol is legal beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday at sporting events, festivals and wineries.

Being under the influence of alcohol in public is illegal in many places. That includes in a bar. Undercover agents go into bars and arrest such people.

Don’t be a Bootlegger!

Dry counties tend to have higher rates of alcohol-related problems, such a drunk driving.

Don’t bootleg in the dry town of Tyler, Texas. Police there report that possessing more than 24 cans of 12 ounce beers is prima facie evidence of bootlegging. So is having over one quart of spirits. That is, it’s evidence of the intent to sell alcohol illegally. With prima facie evidence, no other evidence is necessary to convict.

Thus, possessing a single case plus one more beer or over one quart of liquor would be grounds for arrest. Forget about having a party or stocking up on your next trip to a wet county. At least if you want to avoid a $2,000 fine, six months in jail, and a criminal record.

C. Driving and Alcohol

Texas alcohol laws prohibit driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. For commercial drivers it’s 0.04%. And for those under age 21, it’s any detectable amount.

It’s also a violation to have an open alcohol container in the passenger area of a vehicle. That’s while it’s either stationary or traveling on a public street. Open containers may legally be in the trunk.

The penalty for an open container violation is a fine of up to $500. But conviction of DWI and open container includes at least six days in jail.

Penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) depend on the facts and the judge.

Under Age 21

Texas has a Zero Tolerance Law for those under 21. For this reason, it’s illegal for them to drive with any alcohol or drugs in their systems.

Most states set the limit at 0.02% BAC. This is for three reasons. First, breath testers are often not valid. (They don’t measure BAC. They only estimate it.) Second, everyone produces alcohol in their bodies 24/7. Third, many meds and foods contain alcohol. So they set the limit above any “detectable alcohol.” They do this to avoid convicting innocent young drivers.

These are the penalties for a first conviction. Driver’s license suspension for as long as one year. A fine for as much as $500. Required alcohol education program. There is also the possibility of required community service and ignition interlock device (IID).

An IID prevents the vehicle’s engine from starting if there’s alcohol in the driver’s breath. It’s basically a breath tester that the offender must pass every time before driving.

Age 21 and Older

The penalties for a first DWI conviction is three to 180 days in jail. A fine up to $2,000. Driving license suspension for as long as two years. And an annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for three years to keep the license.

For a second conviction, it’s one month to one year in jail. A fine as high as $4,000. License suspension for up to two years. And the annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for three years.

A third offense means prison for two to ten years. The fine may be as high as $10,000. Driving license suspension for as long as two years. And also the surcharge of up to $2,000 annually for three years.


These are the penalties if a DWI occurs with anyone age 14 or younger in the vehicle. Prison can be for as long as two years. The fine may be as high as $10,000. And the automatic license suspension is for 180 days.

There are also extreme DWI crimes. Intoxication assault is when a DWI causes serious bodily harm to someone else. Intoxication manslaughter is when a DWI results in someone’s death.

Driver Rights

The U.S. Constitution gives all drivers the right to decline taking a BAC test. But the state wants them to submit to it. So it punishes those who use their right. To do so, it suspends their driver’s license for 180 days. If they use their right again, the revocation is for two years.

texas alcohol lawsYet this does not apply to refusing field sobriety tests. They lack reliability. Indeed, about one-third of people with zero BAC (0.00%) fail them! And that’s under ideal indoor conditions.

Lawyers strongly recommend that drivers never take one. Police tend to pressure drivers. They may falsely say the law requires it. But it does not. Police have a number of clever ways to convince people to submit.

While investigating, police can legally lie. So don’t fall for it.

Lawyers say to politely refuse. And to do so as long as needed. Learn more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

D. Boating

Texas alcohol laws prohibit anyone from operating a vessel while intoxicated. It’s boating while intoxicated, or BWI. Also, vessels include any boat, sailboat, personal watercraft, water skis, sailboard, or similar device.

BWI is having a BAC of 0.08% or higher. And the exact penalties depend on the facts and the judge.

However, a BWI conviction brings jail for up to 180 days. The fine can be up to $2,000. For a second, jail can be up to one year. And the fine can be up to $4,000.

If a third conviction occurs, it’s prison for two to ten years. The fine can be as high as $10,000.

Operators may use their Constitutional right not to submit to a BAC test. But doing so will cause suspension of their vehicle driver’s license for at least 180 days.

So it’s a very good idea not to drink and boat.

III. Resources on Texas Alcohol Laws

IV. Good Advice about Drinking Laws in Texas

Alcohol laws can change over time. So can their interpretation. They can be hard to understand. Do not rely on this website. Nor on any other site.

Also be leary of the free advice that friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors offer. They mean well. But unless they have a law degree, their advice is worth what you paid. That is, nothing. Even worse, it could be wrong.

texas alcohol lawsGet advice about Texas alcohol laws from an expert. That is a lawyer who holds a license in the state. And it’s clear that laws and enforcement vary widely. So it’s a good idea to select a lawyer practicing in your locale.


So now you know more about Texas alcohol laws than do most Lone Star residents.

Do you know of a fact that should be included? If so, please contact hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/.  And thank you for your help!