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What Is the Alcohol Driving Limit in Texas?

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski
Woman in a car

Alcohol and driving don’t mix. Texas takes driving while under the influence, DWI, very seriously and drivers should always be careful before taking the wheel. Over the course of a year, there were 69,643 drunk driving arrests in Texas alone. Tragically, of those instances, 1439 resulted in death.

It’s common for impaired drivers to assume they are ok to drive. Oftentimes drivers are unaware how alcohol or other drugs impact their driving ability. It’s not until they see the blue lights in the rearview mirror and pulled over by Texas law enforcement that the reality of their decision hits home.

Don’t assume you can have a few drinks and avoid trouble. That’s rarely the case. Before risking a DWI or risking your own safety and the safety of others on the road, be aware of the alcohol driving limit in Texas to stay on the right side of the law.

What’s the Alcohol Driving Limit in Texas?

Like most states, Texas has very precise laws around drinking and driving. These include the Texas Implied Consent Law, which means that a driver cannot refuse a blood alcohol test if an officer pulls them over.

The legal alcohol driving limit is a BAC of 0.08% for ordinary drivers. However, if you have a commercial driver’s license, the legal Texas blood alcohol limit is 0.04%, whether you are driving your company or personal vehicle.

What if A driver is Under 21?

The legal drinking age in Texas is 21, so it’s illegal for anyone under 21 to consume alcohol. Because of this, anyone under 21 driving with any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal.

Many young drivers don’t realize that taking the wheel with ANY amount of alcohol in their system can lead to a DWI charge. So, If you are under 21 and caught drinking and driving, you could get charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) regardless of the blood alcohol (BAC) in your system..

Penalties for DWI in texas

Most often, you could get up to three separate penalties depending on how many times you’re caught driving with a blood alcohol limit above 0.08%. These penalties increase in severity each time you are convicted of an offense. The penalties of a DWI include:

First Offense:

  • You could face a fine of up to $2,000
  • If you’re convicted, you could face up to 180 days in jail (three are compulsory)
  • You could also have your license suspended for up to a year

Second Offense:

  • You could face a fine of up to $4,000
  • If you’re convicted, you could face up to one month to a year in jail
  • You could also have your license suspended for up to two years

Third Offense:

  • You could face a fine of up to $10,000
  • If you’re convicted, you could face from 2 to 10 years in prison
  • You could also have your license suspended for up to two years

Over and above the fines for the infraction, there is also a fine from the state for either $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000 upon sentencing.

Penalties for DWI with Child Passengers

Drivers can be charged with child endangerment if they are caught with one or more children under 15 in the car while exceeding the blood alcohol limit.

Additionally, you will be fined anywhere up to $10,000 and could face up to 12 months in jail. You will also have your license suspended for 180 days.

Texas Open Container Laws

Many don’t realize that simply having an open bottle of booze in the car can spell trouble. In Texas, travelling in a motor vehicle with an opened container of alcohol is illegal, whether you were consuming the beverage or not. If you’re interested in learning more about Texas open container laws, you can read the bill here.

The High Cost of a DWI

The financial pain of a DWI can be devastating. People facing a DWI charge may think it’s too expensive to hire an experienced DWI lawyer- but going alone could be much, much worse in the long run. Don’t underestimate just how much a DWI will cost you financially over time. A DWI alone can cost upwards of $15,000 for a first-time DWI conviction- and that’s before factoring in the inconveniences of reporting and the impact of a conviction on your record.

There are many factors involved with DWI punishment that most people fail to consider. Aside from the annual cost due to your insurance premiums increasing after a claim- which can go up 25% or more after a conviction- there are several other costs are involved with a DWI. Let’s break it down:

  • Bail: $150 – $2,500
  • Car Related Costs (towing, impound, etc.): $100 – $1,500
  • Attorney: $2,500-$5,500
  • Court Fines: $150 – $2,000
  • Court-Mandated Addiction Education: $1,000 – $2,500
  • Licensing Costs: $150
  • Jail Costs (fee, time, and sentencing): $590 – $630
  • Testing Fee (e.g. urine test): $90
  • Probation Supervision: $600 – $1,300
  • Ignition Interlock Device (Breathalyzer): $500 – $1,500
  • License Reinstatement Fee: $20 – $100
  • Community Service Supervision: $60
  • Alternate Transportation: $100 – $1,000

Added together, you’re looking at between $6,000 and $19,000 or even higher if it’s not your first offense. If you factor higher insurance premiums into the costs, the total now sits between $6,400 and $29,000. And we haven’t even calculated the extra cost for any injured persons in the accident, which could run into the thousands in addition to potential lawsuits.

Furthermore, there are other unseen costs that add to the pain such as missing work to appear in court, arranging for a ride, or childcare. Most employers don’t look favorably on an employee who misses work due to a mandatory DWI court appearance.

The potential cost is even greater if you’re a commercial driver, like an Uber, taxi, or truck driver. While your license is suspended, you are unable to work, and you risk losing your job entirely.

It’s a fact that when applying for any job, driving or not, a DWI conviction never looks good. It’s also an easy excuse for a company to deny you an offer or even limit your benefits. An employee with a DWI conviction is a potential liability to any company and they will avoid putting themselves at risk.

Tips to Avoid a DWI

Put simply: don’t drive if you suspect you may be impaired in any way. Unfortunately, circumstances arise and people sometimes take the risk because they have to work in the morning, they don’t want to leave their car away from home, they have to be somewhere else, etc. Regardless of the situation, it’s important to remember what’s at stake. Here are some steps you can take to stay safe and avoid a DWI:

  • Organize Uber rides for the times you know you’re going to be drinking
  • Appoint a designated driver from your group before heading out
  • Check any medication interactions and side effects before consuming alcohol
  • Ensure your phone battery is full before leaving the house
  • Eat a decent meal and don’t drink on an empty stomach
  • Intersperse your alcoholic beverages with water
  • Plan ahead if you’re in an area where rideshare may be hard to find
  • Avoid driving late at night after 10:00 if possible
  • Make sure your transport apps have your credit card information already loaded and properly set up

Charged With a DWI? We Can Help

Getting a DWI can be stressful, expensive, and has the potential to ruin your future. But with the right legal help, the impact to your life can be minimal- or even dismissed. Getting an experienced DWI lawyer on your side is your best chance at minimizing the impact of a DWI on your life.

Beyond the legal costs and potential jail time, the real world consequences of a DWI can be severe. Employers can deny a job for a DWI conviction in your past. Landlords can see your DWI on public databases which can impact your ability to rent an apartment or other property. A DWI on your record can impact potential loans or mortgages from banks and financial institutions.. The social stigma from a DWI can affect your relationship with friends, family, and even neighbors. There is no doubt that getting convicted of a DWI can make a big mess in your life.

Plan ahead and be responsible about your alcohol consumption. If you’re going out, organize a designated driver or hail an Uber or Lyft. It’s safer for you and those around you.

Don’t assume a DWI won’t impact your life. Odds are, you’ll feel the consequences for a very, very long time if you don’t get the right legal help. The smartest move is to hire an experienced DWI lawyer.

Texas courts are among the toughest in the nation. Texas has a 95% conviction rate when a defendant lacks experienced legal representation. So, this is not the time to gamble with your future. Montgomery county DWI attorney Andrea M. Kolski has over 20+ years of experience fighting DWI charges in Texas courts. She has secured complete dismissals or severely reduced charges for countless clients facing DWI charges. Andrea’s track record of success is second to none. Go to to contact our office for help.

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