Is it legal to drink and drive in Texas? Surprisingly, the Texas legal alcohol limit for driving says yes. While we don’t recommend it, so long as your blood alcohol level (BAC) is under .08%, Texans that are non-commercial drivers and over 21 can technically be on the road after drinking. That said, it’s not hard to reach .08%. And you don’t even have to drive to find trouble, as this man who paid $1,600 for an Uber ride home found out the hard way.
OK, but where does this magic .08% number come from? How can you estimate your own BAC? What affects your BAC? We have the answers to these questions about the legal alcohol limit and more.
What is the Texas legal alcohol limit for driving?
For Texans, some things are universal when it comes to drinking and driving. For example, the Implied Consent Law in Texas applies to all drivers. However, the Texas legal alcohol limit for driving depends on your situation and age.
If you are over 21, there are two legal alcohol limits for driving:
- For ordinary, non-commercial drivers, the legal alcohol limit is .08
- For commercial drivers holding a CDL, the legal alcohol limit for driving is only .04 — regardless of whether you’re driving your commercial or personal vehicle.
- Should you get caught with a BAC of .15% or above, your punishment category (normally a Class B misdemeanor) can be bumped up to a Class A misdemeanor
If you’re under 21, it’s a much different story. Read on so you can avoid the common pitfalls of the Texas legal alcohol driving limits.
The math & science behind the Texas legal alcohol limit
Myths and misconceptions are abound for the legal alcohol driving limits in Texas. From incorrect information about underage drinking rules to choosing between alcohol blood tests vs breathalyzers, confusion can come from anywhere.
One of the most common misconceptions starts with the .08 blood alcohol content figure because it doesn’t mean that your BAC limit is 8% or .08 mathematically. Instead if we were to mathematically compute it, the percentage actually means .0008. To arrive at these figures, your BAC is calculated by dividing the number of milliliters of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. So in layman’s terms, it doesn’t take much alcohol to get anyone drunk, by legal limits.
In fact, any blood alcohol level of 0.3% to 0.4% or greater is generally considered fatal. While .08% is fairly easy to reach, it’s impossible for you to survive or even reach a blood alcohol level of 8%. And if, by some miracle, you did… well, let’s just say that DWI probation or a DWI license suspension in Texas would then be the least of your worries.
As you can see, there can be a huge difference between the perceived and actual Texas legal alcohol driving limits. A .08% BAC level is the point at which a driver is no longer driving responsibly and is likely to put their life and other people’s lives in danger by tailgating, driving off the road, making illegal turns, driving erratically or nodding off.
Most people reach a .08% BAC level if they drink between 2 and 3 drinks per hour. At 2 drinks per hour, you’re most likely impaired; at 3 drinks per hour, you face a very high risk of being legally intoxicated. However, at 1 drink per hour, adults who weigh over 100 pounds can drink approximately 1 drink per hour and still drive.
Now, it’s worth noting that not all drinks are equal. “One drink” can mean a lot of things, but for the estimates above, one drink stands for 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor (40%), 12 oz. beer (4.5%) or 5 oz. wine (12%). In other words, one drink with two shots or 3 oz. of liquor in a cup would not be considered “one drink,” but two.
Now you know why questions like, “How much alcohol can you drink before you drive?” or, “How many beers is the legal limit in Texas?” are tricky to answer
For more information, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has created charts that break down the approximate blood alcohol percentage in one hour for men and women.
Texas legal alcohol driving limits & commercial drivers
Earlier, you read the legal limit for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders was only .04. If you or someone you know is a commercial driver with a CDL, please read this section carefully. The standards for commercial drivers are much more strict.
Commercial drivers have different standards because they drive different vehicles. Large vehicles such as 18-wheeler trucks and buses are complex for drivers, especially due to the potential danger to passengers or other drivers on the road when handled improperly.
In addition to the strict .04 Texas legal alcohol driving limit for CDL drivers, here are other things you need to know:
- The .04 limit applies all the time. It doesn’t matter whether you are driving your commercial or company vehicle.
- Officers must have probable cause for Texas field sobriety tests for non-commercial drivers. However, commercial drivers are bound by US Department of Transportation regulations that could subject commercial drivers to “random” BAC tests.
- Fighting a DWI is high stakes for every citizen; however, a DWI threatens the means of living for commercial drivers. For example, an ALR hearing in Houston could almost be life and death for a commercial driver and their family.
Penalties for driving with a BAC over the legal alcohol limit in Texas
Getting convicted of DWI can have serious negative and legal repercussions. Yes, you will have to pay fines and spend time in jail (at least during the initial arrest). But you may also have your license suspended, and having DWI or DUI on your record can cause problems with issues with college enrollment, finding a job, acquiring certifications, purchasing a gun, and more.
For more specifics regarding penalties for driving with a BAC over the legal alcohol limit in Texas, check out the following resources:
- DWI 1st-Time Offense
- 2nd DWI in Texas
- 3rd DWI in Texas
- 4th DWI in Texas
- Misdemeanor Penalties in Texas
Can you drink (and drive) under the age of 21 in Texas?
Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. If you’re under 21, are asked to take a breath test and blow anything over 0 (zilch, nada), then you’re probably looking at getting a driver’s license suspension at the very least.
Some notes on the drinking age in Texas with a parent
Yes, you can drink under the age of 21 if you’re with a parent. You can even drink in a restaurant, so long as your parent purchases the alcoholic beverage and stays with you while you drink. But if you’re under 21 and your mom or dad lets you have a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail, don’t even think about getting behind the wheel.
Ways to avoid driving with a high BAC
As much as we like charts and data, several other factors such as weight, genetics, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, blood volume and muscle mass can all affect how your body is able to metabolize alcohol. There are also many medicines that don’t mix well with alcohol. The best way to avoid drunk driving (after not drinking) is to know your body, limit your alcohol intake and have a plan.
Make sure you do the following before you head out:
- Designate a driver who will not drink (a DD)
- Save a taxi number in your phone or download Uber or Lyft and add your credit card information beforehand, so you don’t have to do so after a few drinks
- Charge your phone fully
- Check your medication for potential side effects of drinking
- Eat a substantial, well-balanced meal and consider eating snacks while drinking
- Drink plenty of water before you go out and while drinking
- Know DWI laws, including the open container laws in Texas
- Know what to expect from Texas Field Sobriety Tests, alcohol blood tests and breathalyzer tests
Know what to do if you get caught with a blood alcohol concentration over .08%
The penalties for breaking DWI laws and being over the Texas legal alcohol limit are steep. With an experienced DWI attorney in Houston, you have a much higher chance at avoiding the harshest sentences, receiving DWI probation over jail time and having a successful ALR hearing.
If you’ve received a DWI charge and want the best DWI attorney in Houston at your side, call Thiessen Law Firm at 713-864-9000 or contact us online for your free consultation today.
More Helpful Articles by Thiessen Law Firm
- Your Second DWI in Texas: What You Need to Know
- Can I Get a Concealed Weapons Permit with a DUI?
- Intoxication Manslaughter: The Penalties in Texas
- Can I get a CDL with a DWI on my Record?
- Can a Drunk Passenger be Charged with DWI?
The Legal Alcohol Limit in Texas & Client Testimonials
“After being arrested for a first time DWI, I felt scared, lost, and worst of all alone. I quickly started asking around and reading reviews. Time and time again the name Mark Thiessen was the main constant to every conversation or search. He, himself, called me back in less than 24-hours, set up a consultation the next day, answered all my outrageous questions patiently, and proceeded to give me an overview of how the process would play out. His knowledge of the legal system was astounding…” – S.F. Continue reading this Houston DWI testimonial.
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Everything About the 2021 Texas Legal Alcohol Limit for Driving | Thiessen Law Firm? ›
It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more (0.04% for commercial vehicle drivers and 0.01% if under 21).What is the legal alcohol limit for driving in Texas? ›
You are legally intoxicated in Texas when your blood alcohol concentration reaches 0.08%, but you are breaking the law as soon as drugs or alcohol affect your driving — or flying or boating — ability.What is the legal BAC limit for Texas drivers under the age of 21? ›
Texas established ZERO TOLERANCE for minors who commit any alcohol related offenses. Minor (DUIA by a Minor). The 0.08% BAC legal limit of intoxication does not apply to minors. If the minor does not have a driver license, driving privileges are denied for the same period as the suspension.Can I drink one beer and drive Texas? ›
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a major offense in every state. In Texas, DWI is punishable with jail time, fees, license suspension, and potentially an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle. Experts say that even one drink can impair a driver.What is 0.15 blood alcohol level? ›
0.13 – 0.15% – At this point, your blood alcohol level is quite high. You'll be affected by blurred vision, loss of coordination and balance, and potentially dysphoria (anxiety or restlessness). 0.16 – 0.19% – The term “sloppy drunk” applies. Dysphoria will become stronger, and nausea may occur.How many drinks is .025 BAC? ›
025% depending on the study referenced. Consequently, . 025% times three to four standard drinks equal a .What is 2 times over the legal limit? ›
Generally speaking, 2 drinks will put most people over the legal limit, and any more on top of that will obviously add to a person's BAC. The only thing that will reduce BAC is time: the alcohol content of your blood is reduced at 0.01% per 40 minutes.Can a first offense DUI be dismissed in Texas? ›
Texas DWI charges especially for a first-time offense, can be dismissed entirely or lowered to a less serious charge such as reckless driving.What is the legal limit for drinking and driving? ›
The smallest amount of alcohol can affect your vision, reaction times and ability to drive, even if you remain well below the legal drink-drive limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres.What is 3 times over the legal limit? ›
A blood alcohol content of 0.272%, which is over three times the legal limit, can lead to severe punishments. While a BAC that high is tough for any lawyer to battle, a vigorous and hard-working attorney was fortunate enough to get the accused driver less-than-minimal consequences.
Can a passenger drink in a car in Texas? ›
CAN A PASSENGER DRINK ALCOHOL IN A VEHICLE? No. In Texas, open containers are prohibited in any seating area of a vehicle, including the driver's side, passenger side or backseat. It's illegal to knowingly possess an Open Container of alcohol in a vehicle on a public highway.Can I drive after one bottle of beer? ›
That said, if you do fancy a drink, as a general rule, most people are OK to drive after a pint of regular-strength beer or a small glass of wine. Any more and you run a significant risk of being over the limit. A unit of alcohol normally takes the body around an hour to process.How many beers can you drink and drive in Texas? ›
08% BAC level if they drink between 2 and 3 drinks per hour. At 2 drinks per hour, you're most likely impaired; at 3 drinks per hour, you face a very high risk of being legally intoxicated. However, at 1 drink per hour, adults who weigh over 100 pounds can drink approximately 1 drink per hour and still drive.What will your BAC be if you drink 3 beers in 1 hour? ›
The speed by which a man would reach this level would vary: At 100 pounds, a man would reach a BAC of 0.12 by drinking three drinks in less than one hour or four drinks over two hours. At 150 pounds, a man would reach this level by consuming six drinks over two to three hours.How can I lower my BAC fast? ›
- Coffee. ...
- Cold showers. ...
- Eating and drinking. ...
- Sleep. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Carbon or charcoal capsules.
1.480 BAC. After a car crash that resulted in serious injuries, a Polish man's BAC was taken and it was 1.480%. That's the highest BAC ever recorded in known history. Doctors said he survived his brush with death due to drinking, but he later died due to his injuries from the car crash.Does drinking water lower your blood alcohol level? ›
Food may help your body absorb alcohol. Water can help reduce your BAC. Avoid caffeine. It's a myth that coffee, energy drinks, or similar beverages alleviate intoxication quicker.Can I pass a breathalyzer after 12 hours? ›
Generally, a breathalyzer test can test positive for alcohol for up to 12 hours after consuming one alcoholic drink. The average urine test can also detect alcohol 12-48 hours later. If your BAC is 0.08, it will take approximately 5 hours to metabolize the alcohol completely before you can become “sober” again.How long does alcohol stay in urine calculator? ›
On average, a urine test could detect alcohol between 12 to 48 hours after drinking. Some advanced urine tests can detect alcohol even 80 hours after you've had a drink. Alcohol can stay in your hair for a period of up to 90 days.How many drinks is .08 for a man? ›
Standard Drinks and BAC
For every one drink, your BAC goes up by about 0.02 percent, so reaching a BAC of 0.08 percent takes about four to five drinks.
How many drinks is a .16 BAC? ›
|Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage|
|Your body can get rid of one drink per hour. One drink is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of table wine.|
|Blood alcohol level||Physiological effect|
|0.3–0.4% (300–400 mg/dL)||Signs of severe alcohol intoxication and a person may not be able to move without the help of another person. Stupor, blackout, and total loss of consciousness may also happen.|
- Mistake #1: The officer didn't have reasonable suspicion. ...
- Mistake #2: The video evidence doesn't add up. ...
- Mistake #3: Your BAC test wasn't handled properly. ...
- Mistake #4: Officers didn't follow protocol. ...
- Mistake #5: Not calling a law firm.
Statistics show that people who plead guilty to DWI have almost no chance of getting their case dismissed and are more likely to be convicted of the original offense. However, if you plead not guilty, you have a 15% chance of dismissal and nearly a 30% chance of a conviction for a lesser charge.How can you beat a DUI in Texas? ›
To beat a DWI charge in Texas, you must assert and protect your constitutional rights. You must utilize due process to confront all witnesses and challenge all evidence. This means disputing reasonable suspicion, probable cause, and all forensic evidence. You can't win if you don't fight.Is 4 beers too much to drive? ›
Many people follow the "one drink an hour rule" to avoid going over the blood alcohol content of 0.08%. Essentially, the one drink per hour rule means that as long as someone only consumes 1¼ ounces of hard liquor, one beer, or one glass of wine and no more over the course of an hour, then they are safe to drive.Is one bottle of beer over the limit? ›
The short answer is that unfortunately, it doesn't. Because everyone is slightly different, one beer may put a person over the limit, whilst another person would be safe to drive. Even the same person may find that a beer puts them over the limit on one occasion, but not on another.How much alcohol can you drink and drive? ›
The smallest amount of alcohol can affect your vision, reaction times and ability to drive, even if you remain well below the legal drink-drive limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres.What is the limit for a breathalyzer test Texas? ›
The legal limit for intoxication in Texas is . 08% BAC, but if an officer suspects you of driving while intoxicated, they can arrest and charge you despite your actual BAC level. Being charged with a crime does not prove you have broken the law.