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

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 geographic area.

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

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

In other counties beer but not wine can be sold in grocery stores. It’s confusing. In some places beer can’t be sold in stores but can be sold in restaurants. In one town, alcohol is legally sold in the part of town that’s in one county. But it can’t be sold in the part located in another county.

This makes it a challenge to understand Texas drinking laws

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 needed for tending bar? For serving alcohol in restaurants? For selling alcohol in stores for consumption 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 consumption elsewhere. They must be age 21 to sell spirits (liquor) in such businesses.

texas alcohol lawsThis law reflects a myth. It’s that spirits are more “alcoholic.”  But standard servings of beer, wine and spirits all have the same amount of alcohol. Each has 0.7 ounce of pure alcohol. They’re all equal in terms of the alcohol content.

Those under 21 may not buy alcohol. And it’s a criminal act 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 BAC must be 0.00.

texas alcohol lawsTexas 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.

II. Alcohol Violations

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. However, only liquor stores may sell distilled spirits.

texas alcohol lawsRestaurants may sell alcohol on Sundays before noon if it’s paired with food. However, no alcohol may be sold anywhere on Sunday that is over 17 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).

No venue 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. And food trucks can’t sell any alcohol.

Confusing Alcoholic Beverage Laws in Texas

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

Purchasing Alcohol

texas alcohol lawsIt’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 mandatory driver’s license suspension for 30 days. For a second offense of any it’s a license suspension for 60 days. If a third offense occurs, the license suspension is for 180 days.

In addition, a judge may choose to order an Alcohol Education Program as well as community service.

It’s also illegal to buy alcohol for a person under the age of 21. However, 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

Customers may not use coupons to buy alcohol in Texas.

Being intoxicated in public is illegal in many jurisdictions. That includes being intoxicated in a bar. Undercover agents go into bars and arrest people who are intoxicated.

Don’t be a Bootlegger!

Dry counties tend to have higher rates of alcohol-related problems, such as drunken 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 distilled spirits (whiskey, vodka, tequila, and so on). 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.

Driving and Alcohol

Texas alcohol laws prohibit driving with a blood alcohol concentration 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 of drinking laws to have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle. That’s while it’s either parked or traveling on a public street. Open containers may legally be kept in the trunk.

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

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

Under Age 21

texas alcohol lawsTexas 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.

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.

An ignition interlock device prevents the vehicle’s engine from starting if there’s alcohol in the driver’s breath. It’s basically a breathalyzer test that the offender must pass every time before driving.

Age 21 and Older

texas alcohol lawsThe 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 brings imprisonment for between two and ten years. The fine may be as high as $10,000. Driving license suspension for as long as two years. And 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. Imprisonment 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 the test. Therefore, it punishes those who use their right. Their driver’s license is suspended for 180 days. If they use their right on another occasion, the revocation is for two years.

texas alcohol lawsHowever, this does not apply to refusing field sobriety tests. There are notoriously subjective and lack reliability. Indeed, anout one-thirg of people with aBAC of 0.00 fail them.

Lawyers strongly recommend that drivers never take one. Some officers will pressure drivers falsely telling them that the law requires it. It does not. They learn a number of clever techniques to convince people to submit. Lawyers say to politely refuse as many times as necessary

Learn more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.


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

BWI is having a BAC of 0.08 or higher. The exact penalties depend on the circumstances and the particular judge.

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

If a third conviction occurs, the imprisonment is for two to ten years. The fine can be as high as $10,000.

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

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

III. Resources on Texas Alcohol Laws

Texas alcohol lawsState Code


Administrative Code


Legislative Information


Attorney General Opinions


State Bar of Texas

IV. Get Good Advice

Alcohol laws can change over time. So can their interpretation. They can be hard to understand. Do not rely on this website. Or on any other site.

Also be leary of the free advice offered by friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors. They mean well, but unless they have a law degree, their advice is worth what you paid. Nothing.

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

Reference fot Texas Alcohol Laws

Labbe, J. You may need a drink to understand our liquor laws. Star-Telegram, 5-16-14.