What is the Legal Alcohol Limit in Texas?

Driving while over the legal alcohol limit is one of the leading causes of fatal crashes in Texas. In 2022 alone, 26% of all traffic deaths in Texas involved a drunk driver with DWI crashes claiming 1,162 lives. This averages to one death every 7 hours and 32 minutes.

Despite the growing availability of safe alternatives, Texans continue to drive while intoxicated putting countless people at risk of death or injury.

When investigating a suspected intoxicated driver, Texas law enforcement often considers their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). BAC is a critical standard when assessing how much risk a driver poses to themselves and others on the road.

What is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?

When you ingest an alcoholic beverage, your stomach and small intestines begin to absorb the alcohol, which then enters your bloodstream. The alcohol will remain in your bloodstream until your liver metabolizes it and filters it out of your blood.

Blood alcohol content (BAC), also called blood alcohol level, is a measurement of how much alcohol is in a person’s blood at a given time. To calculate BAC, you measure the grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. A BAC of .05 means your blood is .05% alcohol by volume.

Authorities can accurately measure BAC within 30 to 70 minutes, and it is among the most quantitative methods to measure intoxication. When considered alongside other methods of measuring intoxication, such as a field sobriety test, law enforcement officers can use BAC to determine whether a person is drunk driving.

Legal Alcohol Limit for Driving in Texas

The legal BAC limit for drivers aged 21 and over in Texas is .08%. This limit is established by Sec. 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code.

Texas also operates on a zero-tolerance for drivers under the age of 21 meaning that any detectable amount of alcohol can result in arrest. Underage drivers under the .08% limit typically face DUI charges.

Additionally, drivers of commercial vehicles carry an additional limit of .04%.

It is also important to remember that being under the legal limit alone does not mean you are good to drive. Even with a BAC of .07% or lower, an officer can arrest you for DWI if you exhibit diminished mental or physical faculties during a field sobriety test.

Penalties for Driving Over the Legal Limit in Texas

Due to the severe risks associated with driving while intoxicated, Texas law imposes strict penalties for drunk driving. The penalties increase for repeat offenses or those with aggravating circumstances.

First DWI Offense

  • Up to a $2,000 fine
  • Up to 180 days in jail upon conviction, three days mandatory
  • Loss of driver license for up to a year

Second DWI Offense

  • Up to a $4,000 fine
  • One month to year in jail upon conviction
  • Loss of driver’s license for up to two years

Third DWI Offense

  • A $10,000 fine
  • Two to 10 years in prison upon conviction
  • Loss of driver license for up to two years

DWI Offense with a Child Passenger

  • Additional charge of child endangerment if the child passenger is under the age of 15
  • Additional fine of up to $10,000
  • Additional jail time of up to 2 years

In addition to the above fines, drivers convicted of DWI may incur fines of up to $6,000 upon sentencing.

What Happens at Different BAC Levels?

How a person reacts to different levels of blood alcohol concentration may vary depending on the amount of alcohol tolerance a drinker has developed; however, a typical drinker could expect to experience the following:

  • BAC of .02-.04%: Relaxation, minor impairment of judgment, a sensation of warmth, some lightheadedness.
  • BAC of .05-.07%: The drinker is “buzzed.” Greater relaxation, some euphoria, lowered inhibitions, minor impairment of reasoning and memory, the drinker may display exaggerated emotions.
  • BAC of .08-.10%: The drinker is legally impaired. Greater euphoria, impaired balance, impaired or slurred speech, impaired vision, slower reaction time, impaired judgment and self-control.
  • BAC of .11-.15%: The drinker may experience less euphoria and begin to experience depressive effects like anxiety, depression, and unease. Impaired motor functions, severely impaired perception and judgment.
  • BAC of .16-19%: The drinker is likely experiencing nausea, disorientation, and dizziness. Likely a strong state of depression and increased impairment of motor functions, vision, and judgment.
  • BAC of .20-.24%: The drinker is extremely disoriented and nauseated and is likely vomiting. They may need help standing or walking and likely have difficulty determining place and time. Blackout likely.
  • BAC of .25-.30%: All physical, mental, and sensory functions are severely impaired. The drinker is likely in a stupor with little comprehension and an inability to communicate.
  • BAC of .31%: The drinker is likely in a coma with acute alcohol poisoning. At this level of BAC, 50% of drinkers are likely to die from respiratory arrest.

As shown above, impairment can begin well under the legal alcohol limit. This is why it is always best to side on the side of caution and consider safe alternatives to driving after drinking.

Injured in a Drunk Driving Crash? Contact Thomas J. Henry Law

When someone drives while over the legal alcohol limit, they are putting everyone on the road at risk. If you or a loved one were injured in a drunk driving crash, contact a reputable personal injury attorney. The San Antonio car accident lawyers at Thomas J. Henry Law can help protect your rights so you are in the best position to secure the financial compensation you deserve.

Do not wait. The sooner you call, the sooner our attorney can start investigating and building your case. We are available 24/7, nights and weekends. Call now for your free case review.

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