Updated Texas Alcohol Laws: Open Container, DWI and More

Texas alcohol laws can be both forgiving and severe depending on the offense and the history of the offender. We'll go through the different crimes and their penalties on this page and provide up to date information about the laws.

Table of Contents

We’ll give the rundown on the variety of alcohol offenses in the state including the law and their penalties. For some of the more intricate laws we’ll have full page explanations of the current law which we’ll link to in the relevant sub-section.

DWI

Right out of the gate it’s important to know that, in Texas, DWI’s are used to describe adult offenses and DUI’s are typically used to describe juvenile offenses in the state. Given juvenile drunk driving incidents follow a strict no tolerance policy, we’ll stick to adult offenses. The state penalizes drivers who have excessive blood alcohol levels (whether or not someone was injured in the process of your driving while inebriated) and if a child is involved. In the latter case, the penalties can be severe.

Furthermore, whether or not you are a first time or repeat offender is a major factor in your punishment. By law, first time offenders will only spend a maximum of 72 hours in jail and pay a fine of up to $2,000. The seventy two hours is a product of when you are arrested (if over the weekend when courts are not in session).

Conversely, second time offenders (of the exact same crime) can result in a fine of up to $4,000, a potential suspension of your license for up to 2 years and even an interlock device installed in your car so it cannot be started until you breath on a breathalyzer. Read our full, update piece on Texas DWI Laws for more information on these laws.

Can you drink and drive a Boat?

As summers are brutal in the great state of Texas, many have asked whether you can get a DWI for driving a boat while drunk. In fact you can but technically it’s a “Boating While Intoxicated” offense. However this offense is no laughing matter as it is a Class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by a sentence of up to $2,000 and a jail sentence of up to 180 days.

DWI Expunction and Non Disclosed

Getting a DWI removed from your record in Texas requires a series of steps. First, while other states may allow for having your DWI “Expunged” from your record, in the lonestar state the more likely course of action is to have your DWI non-disclosed from your record. Having the DWI non-disclosed will make it so future employers are unable to see the offense on your record when they run a background check. Furthermore, it will not be required of you to disclose to future employers that you received a DWI in the past.

Requirements for getting a DWI Non Disclosed: You’ve paid all your court fees and fines, your DWI did not involve injuring someone else, you aren’t on community supervision for something else, and a waiting period of 2 or five years has elapsed.

For more on the waiting period and other requirements, see our full updated page on how to get your DWI non-disclosed in Texas.

Drinking and Manslaughter

The Texas penal code takes the time to call out a very specific adjustment to the law related to drinking and injuring someone. If you are intoxicated and injured someone, and the reason you injured someone can be attributed to the fact you were drunk, you are now going to be charged with a felony in the second degree. It’s often difficult for states to get a conviction in these sorts of cases because, while it might be easy to prove one is intoxicated, it’s very difficult to prove that the drinking caused the person to injure someone.

Open Container Laws

Texas defines an open container as any type of bottle or can that “contains any amount alcoholic beverage and that is open, that has been opened, that has a broken seal.” In addition to bottles and cans the law, in an attempt to circumvent legal loopholes, also includes “receptacles” or just anything that contains something.

Certain areas of the car are allowed to have sealed (or even open) alcoholic bottles such as the glove compartment or any similar place in the car as long as that container can be sealed. Additionally alcohol in the trunk is fine OR if you don’t have a trunk, the “the area behind the last upright seat of the vehicle, if the vehicle does not have a trunk.” Full Texas laws on possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle can be found in sec. 49.031 of the penal code.

Public Intoxication

This is dealt with in the criminal penal code, chapter 49 and Sec. 49.02 in particular that deals directly with the issue of public intoxication. Though the definition has some room for ambiguity in it, the sentiment is straightforward. Public intoxication is simply “person commits an offense if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.”

This offense is only a Class C misdemeanor which is the weakest offense one can be convicted of in the state. The fine is only an amount up to $500 and you will not be required to serve any jail time. Pay the fine and move on with this undoubtedly embarrassing moment in your life.

Juvenile Alcohol Laws

Showing or possessing a Fake ID is illegal in Texas. Additionally juveniles are not allowed to misrepresent their age, even verbally to someone that is either engaged in selling or hired to sell alcohol related products. The court has the leeway to sentence the offender to up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000. The most likely outcome is a fine (at least $250) and community service. The community service requirement will be between eight and twelve hours for first time offenders. If the juvenile re-offends the court will require between 20 and 40 hours of community service and the suspension of their drivers license or permit.

Sunday Alcohol Sales

For years, Texas made it illegal for licensed stores to sell alcohol before noon on Sundays. However HB 1518 overturned that, and several other of the states alcohol laws. Beginning September 1, 2021 beer and wine can be purchased as early as 10:00 a.m. on Sundays. However it is still illegal if one “alcoholic beverage in a public place at any time on Sunday between 2:15 a.m. and 12 noon and on any other day between 2:15 a.m. and 7 a.m.”

There is one exception to the rule which the bill also put in place. Now in Texas, hotel bars can sell alcohol at any time (day or night on any day of the week) if they are a registered guest of the hotel.

Alcohol Delivery

Though it may surprise some, Texas was actually relatively early in legalizing alcohol delivery in the state. Legalizing the practice in 2019 that allowed restaurants to deliver alcohol through couriers or using a third party application such as Amazon or Whole Foods. However restrictions regarding the day and time (see above) still apply to alcohol delivery.

An interesting loophole (well, interesting for us) is that orders can be placed during these restricted times using third party apps (such as Drizly) because they are simply “holding” the money until the alcohol can be legally purchased. However, you’ll still have to wait until the next available window for the beer and wine to actually be delivered.

Dry Counties In Texas

Texas gives counties permission to regulate whether or not they want to sell alcohol (and whether or not liquor is allowed). Some counties are completely wet (all types of alcohol are allowed) and other counties are completely dry (no alcohol is permitted to be sold). Currently there are five remaining dry counties in Texas. They are: Borden County, Hemphil County, Kent County, Roberts County and Throckmorton County.