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Sometimes convoluted and always complex, Texas alcohol laws are intended to ensure the safety and sobriety of Texans at large. As they vary from county to county within the Lone Star State, it is especially important to be mindful of how these shifting laws affect you depending on exactly where you are in the state.
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What Are The Main Texas Alcohol Laws?
Texas has complex (some may say “dated”) laws when it comes to alcohol regulation, with some counties in stark contrast with others. From ‘dry counties’ prohibiting the sale of liquor entirely to those that don’t allow Sunday liquor sales, Texas’ alcohol laws are heavy-handed and very much influenced by Prohibition-era regulations.
What Are Texas Blue Laws?
Originally called “blue laws” because of the blue paper they were printed on, these were enacted by the Texas Alcohol Beverage Code and restrict sale of liquor on Sundays until after 10 AM. This legal relic has been in the books for decades and is strongly supported by the Texas Retailers Association, despite opposition by 70 percent of Texas consumers. Because the association’s lobby is so strong, shoppers are having difficulty repealing it.
Wet, Dry, And ‘Moist’ Counties
Texas experiences a range of wet, dry, and moist counties. Namely, “wet” counties are those that sell liquor every day and “dry” ones are those that never sell liquor. Five counties –
Borden, Hemphill, Kent, Roberts, and Throckmorton – are completely dry. “Moist” counties are those that are somewhere in between, allowing liquor sales on some days and not on others. With time, Texas has become “wetter.”
Open Container Laws
Texas alcohol laws prohibit you from having an open container in your vehicle. Even if it is sealed but previously opened, it’s a violation as a Class C misdemeanor with a $500 fine. Also, there is a penalty if you are parked and you have an open container.
From bottles and cans to cups, one factor to take soberly is that if you have an open container in the passenger area of your car, this might lead to a DUI charge because the violation always applies to the driver. Exceptions to the open container law are mini campers designed to be living areas, and driving services like limousines and taxis.
As in other states, the legal age for drinking in Texas is 21, with certain exceptions. For example, an individual who is a minor may drink at home if they’re supervised by their parent.
The penalty for buying alcohol while underage is a 30-day license suspension, 60 days for the second offense, and 180 days for the third offense. A court may also impose an alcohol education program as well as community service as a penalty.
Texas DWI Laws: Liquor And Blood
A Texan is injured or killed every 20 minutes in a DUI crash. That’s why drinking and driving are a dangerous cocktail.
What Is Implied Consent?
Implied consent laws in Texas state that if an officer has probable cause to suspect you have been driving while intoxicated (DWI), you automatically consent to a breathalyzer test upon your arrest. Essentially, by choosing to drive on Texas roads, you have implicitly agreed to have your breath and blood tested upon arrest with probable cause of the DWI.
Legal restrictions to implied consent laws in Texas include:
- The arresting officer must have probable cause that you were driving while intoxicated before asking you to submit to a breathalyzer
- You must have been arrested on these grounds
- The arresting officer must have notified you that the breathalyzer test is mandatory and have stated the legal implications for failure to submit
Remember, if you decline a breathalyzer after your arrest, you could face stiff penalties such as hefty fines and possible license suspension.
What Are The BAC Levels For DWI?
Texas alcohol laws prohibit the following BAC levels for drivers:
- BAC of .08 percent or higher for regular drivers
- BAC of .04 percent or higher for commercial drivers
- BAC of .02 percent or higher for individuals under 21 years old
Notably, Texas alcohol laws apply a zero tolerance policy for young drivers, so any detectable amount for an underage motorist is penalized.
Why Are Sobriety Checkpoints Illegal In Texas?
Although this ruling is not enacted in statutes, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that sobriety checkpoints were a violation of Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure in 1991. As such, Texas does not utilize them despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to the contrary.
Learn More About How Texas Alcohol Laws Can Affect You: Speak With An Expert Today
Texas laws are confusing and how they are applied may surprise you. If you’re wondering how the state’s patchwork of alcohol laws bear on your case, speak with a professional today.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.
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