Legal Penalties

General Information

Class A Misdemeanor-fine up to $4,000, up to 1 year in jail, possible 180 days driver's license suspension with some offenses such as furnishing alcohol to a minor

Class B Misdemeanor- fine up to $2,000, up to 6 months in jail, possible 72 hours minimum confinement with some offenses such as driving while intoxicated

Class C Misdemeanor- fine up to $500, community service, alcohol awareness course, 30 to 180 days driver's license suspension for some offenses such as minor in possession of alcohol

Possession of a Fake ID

Possession of a driver's license that is fictitious or has been altered is a Class A misdemeanor.  Class A misdemeanors have a possible punishment of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. This law also applies to possession of more than one currently valid driver’s license.  

A driver's license can be suspended for one year for fake ID and DWI.  Driving with a suspended driver's license is a Class B misdemeanor with further loss of driver’s license.  Penalties and suspension periods increase on subsequent arrests.

Possession of Alcohol by a Minor (MIP)

Possession of Alcohol by a Minor is approximately $500 for the first offense, $560 for the second offense, and a Class B misdemeanor for the third offense. 

A driver's license can be suspended for 30 days on the first MIP, 60 days on the second MIP, and 6 months on the third MIP.  Driving with a suspended driver's license is a Class B misdemeanor with further loss of driver’s license.  Penalties and suspension periods increase on subsequent arrests.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) by a Minor

The fine for a minor Driving Under the Influence of alcohol is approximately $500 for the first offense and $560 for the second offense.

DUI by a minor requires that an individual have merely a detectable trace of alcohol present on his breath.  There is no need for a blood, breath or physical test. A police officer simply needs to smell or detect the presence of alcohol. A suspect arrested for a DUI will be taken to jail to bond out and, unless there is a sober individual in the car who can drive the vehicle home, the vehicle will be towed at the owner's expense to an impound yard. The intoxicated passengers may be arrested for Public Intoxication.

A driver's license can be suspended 60 days for the first DUI.  Driving with a suspended driver's license is a Class B misdemeanor with further loss of driver’s license.  Penalties and suspension periods increase on subsequent arrests.

Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor is a Class A misdemeanor.  A person commits this offense if he purchases an alcoholic beverage for or gives or with criminal negligence makes available an alcoholic beverage to a minor. The only exceptions are when the minor's parent, guardian, a spouse 21 years of age or more purchases or provides alcohol to the minor. This adult must be visibly present when the minor possesses or consumes the alcoholic beverage. 

A person's driver's license is automatically suspended for 180 days on final conviction of the offense of Purchase of Alcohol for a minor or Furnishing Alcohol to a minor.

Civil Liability for Providing Alcohol to a Minor.  An adult 21 years of age or older is liable for damages proximately caused by the intoxication of a minor under the age of 18 if the adult is not the minor's parent, guardian, or spouse; or an adult whose custody the minor has been committed by a court; and the adult knowingly served or provided to the minor any of the alcoholic beverages that contributed to the minor's intoxication; or allowed the minor to be served or provided any of the alcoholic beverages that contributed to the minor's intoxication on the premises owned or leased by the adult.

Sale of Alcohol to a Minor

A person commits Sale of Alcohol to a Minor if with criminal negligence he sells an alcoholic beverage to a minor. It is a defense if the minor falsely represents himself as being 21 years old or older with an apparently valid Texas driver's license, or identification card issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety, that contains a physical description consistent with the individual's appearance for the purpose of inducing the individual to sell him an alcoholic beverage. Sale of Alcohol to a Minor  is a Class A misdemeanor.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

A person commits Driving While Intoxicated if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place. DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours. If an open container of alcohol was in the driver's immediate possession, the minimum term of confinement is six days. A second DWI within 10 years is a Class A misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of 30 days. A third DWI within 10 years is a third degree felony. A second DWI within 5 years will cause installation of an ignition interlock device on the vehicle to prevent operation if ethyl alcohol is detected in the operator's breath. This device is expensive to install and maintain.

Intoxicated means not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

If the driver had a passenger who is younger than 15 years of age, the DWI is a state jail felony, instead of a Class B misdemeanor.

The fact that the driver is or has been entitled to use the alcohol, controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance is not a defense.

A person commits Boating While Intoxicated if the person is intoxicated while operating a watercraft. BWI is a Class B misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours.

A person commits Intoxication Assault if the person, by accident or mistake while operating an aircraft, watercraft, or motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, by reason of that intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another person. Intoxication Assault is a third degree felony. Often, the injured person will be the driver's passenger. If the passenger or another person dies, the offense is Intoxication Manslaughter, a second degree felony.

Each year, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) assesses a surcharge on the driver's license of drivers who during the past three years were convicted of DWI. The surcharge is $1,000 per year for three years. A second DWI conviction costs a surcharge of $1,500 per year for three years. If the driver had an alcohol concentration of 0.16 or more, the surcharge is $2,000 per year for three years.

Driver licenses can be suspended for one year for DWI. Driving with a suspended license is a Class B misdemeanor with increased license suspension time. In addition, the DPS assesses an annual $250 surcharge on the license for three years.

If a driver of any age refuses a breath or blood test, the DPS shall suspend the driver's license for 180 days. The suspension term increases to two years if the driver has one or more alcohol-related or drug-related enforcement contacts during the past 10 years.

If a driver who is 21 years of age or more fails to pass the test for intoxication, the DPS shall suspend the driver's license for 90 days. The suspension term increases to one year if the driver has one or more alcohol-related or drug-related enforcement contacts during the past 10 years.

For a driver under the age of 21 years, the suspension term for failure to pass the test for intoxication is 60 days for the first offense, 120 days for the second, and 180 days for the third.

An ignition interlock device will have to be installed on the car of a person convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level of .15 or more, if the defendant is to receive probation.

Public Intoxication (PI)

A person commits Public Intoxication if he is intoxicated in public to the degree that he may endanger himself or another. No sobriety tests need be administered before arrest. 

Failure to Identify

A person commits Failure to Identify if he intentionally gives a false name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested or detained the person or requested the information from a person that the peace officer has good cause to believe is a witness to a criminal offense. This is a class B misdemeanor.

Disorderly Conduct

A person commits class C misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct if he intentionally or knowingly makes unreasonable noise in a public place or in or near a private residence that he has no right to occupy; exposes his anus or genitals in a public place and is reckless about whether another may be present who will be offended or alarmed by his act; uses abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language in a public place, and the language by its very utterance tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace; or makes an offensive gesture or display in a public place, and the gesture or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace.

Possession of an Open Container of Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle

A person commits class C misdemeanor Possession of an Open Container of Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle if the person knowingly possesses an open container in a passenger area of a motor vehicle that is located on a public highway, regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is stopped or parked. Possession by a person of one or more open containers in a single criminal episode is a single offense.

Open container means a bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains any amount of alcoholic beverage and that is open, that has been opened, that has a broken seal, or the contents of which are partially removed.

Passenger area of a motor vehicle means the area of a motor vehicle designed for the seating of the operator and passengers of the vehicle. The term does not include a glove compartment or similar storage container that is locked; the trunk of a vehicle; or the area behind the last upright seat of the vehicle, if the vehicle does not have a trunk.

Public highway means the entire width between and immediately adjacent to the boundary lines of any public road, street, highway, interstate, or other publicly maintained way if any part is open for public use for the purpose of motor vehicle travel. The term includes the right-of-way of a public highway.

Possession of Marijuana

A person commits Possession of Marijuana if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a usable quantity of marijuana.

  • Possession of two ounces or less is a class B misdemeanor.
  • Possession of four ounces or less but more than two ounces is a class A misdemeanor.
  • Possession of five pounds or less but more than four ounces is a State Jail Felony.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

A person commits class C misdemeanor Possession of Drug Paraphernalia if the person knowingly or intentionally uses or possesses with intent to use drug paraphernalia to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, or conceal a controlled substance in violation of the Texas Health and Safety Code or to inhale, ingest, inject, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance in violation of the Texas Health and Safety Code.

Alcohol Related Offenses:

  • Immunity from alcohol related charges is provided to minors who seek emergency medical help.  Immunity can be granted to the first person who requested emergency medical assistance in response to the possible alcohol overdose and who is on the scene and cooperated with medical assistance and law enforcement.  

  • There are enhanced penalties for providing and/or furnishing alcohol to minors at gatherings that involve binge drinking or coerced drinking.

  • First-time DWI convictions may be enhanced from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor if the person’s blood alcohol content is .15 or more.

  • The offense of intoxication assault is enhanced from third degree felony to a second degree felony if a victim suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in a persistent vegetative state.

New Offenses:

  • It is a felony offense to possess bath salts or the chemicals contained therein.  Prior to this legislation bath salts, perceived as mimics of cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and methamphetamine, were marketed as “legal” alternatives to these drugs.  Now possession of bath salts will be punishable from a state jail felony up to a first degree felony depending on the weight of the substance possessed. 

  • Possession of K2, Spice, or synthetic marijuana is a crime punishable as a Class B misdemeanor up to a first degree felony depending on the weight of the substance possessed.

  • Sexting by minors is a Class C misdemeanor with enhance potential to Class B or Class A misdemeanors for repeat offenders.

All updates are from the Texas Bar Journal, Legislative update, September 2011


TABC reminds Texans about the continued dangers of alcohol poisoning.

Amid nationwide concerns about the safety of caffeinated malt beverages, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) reminds parents, young adults and teenagers of the dangers of alcohol poisoning. When inexperienced drinkers consumer high-alcohol-content beverages in large quantities, alcohol overdose is a serious risk, with or without the involvement of stimulants.

Read more at http://www.tabc.state.tx.us/home/press_releases/2010/20101202.asp

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