What Does a Violation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Mean for You?

The Alcoholic Beverage Code (ABC) of Texas DUI enforcement is implemented and managed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).  The TABC also regulates all business involving the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages.  The commission issues and regulates permits and licenses for bars, restaurants, pubs, wholesalers, and distributors.  Violations of the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Code can result in the loss of your license and your livelihood.  In addition to the administrative enforcement actions that the TABC brings before a special adjudicatory body, the commission also can bring criminal charges in Texas criminal courts.  Part of its duties includes investigation into an establishment that has served alcohol to an individual who has then received a DUI violation or has gotten into an accident.  Experienced Texas criminal attorneys can help you understand the unique provisions of the code, navigate the various legal avenues, and preserve your business.

There are many different code violations that can impact a bar or restaurant owner.  These include:

  • Serving or selling alcohol to minors;
  • Serving an intoxicated individual;
  • Failing to report a breach of the peace;
  • Subterfuge;
  • Unlawful marketing practices; and
  • Lying or engaging in illegal actions on the premises.

These violations can result in complete loss of a license to operate the facility, loss of a permit to operate late-night, loss of the right to cart alcoholic beverages, suspension of permits or licenses, or fines.  The procedure for adjudicating violations of the TABC is different than typical court actions as the case is heard before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) – this is different than criminal actions brought by the TABC.  These hearings follow different procedural rules and an experienced attorney is critical to protecting your rights.  An appeal of an adverse decision must be filed within a very limited period of time.

Possible penalties include:

  • A misdemeanor charge and a $100 to $500 fine for serving alcohol to an intoxicated individual;
  • A license holder can have his permit suspended or revoked; and
  • Criminal charges.

Another liability that a bar, restaurant, or other establishment that serves alcohol faces is the Dram Shop Act.  This Act codifies the situations in which a drinking establishment can be responsible for the actions of one its patrons.  This Act does establish that an establishment only can be responsible in the event of a serious violation of ABC provisions.

There are defenses that an establishment licensed by the TABC can assert to avoid or mitigate liability.  The Trained Server (Safe Harbor) Defense is one of these.  In order to assert this defense, the licensed facility must prove:

  • The establishment must have TABC certification;
  • Employees must have attended and passed TABC training classes; and
  • The bar cannot establish any rules or policies that encourage employees to violate the rules of the TABC.

If the establishment can show these elements, it can move for summary judgment in order to obtain a dismissal of the charges.  This is an incredibly valuable tool for bars and restaurants.  Consulting experienced attorneys before a violation of the Texas ABC has occurred can help create and maintain an environment where the Safe Harbor defense remains an effective mechanism to protect permits, licenses, and livelihoods.

For additional information, or if you are the owner of a drinking establishment facing a charge for a violation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you enforce your rights.  For more than three decades, our office has successfully defended thousands of individuals dealing with all types of criminal related offenses.   If you would like to speak to Mr. Pettit about your case, contact our firm today by calling 214-521-4567.  We accept most major credit cards and provide bilingual services in Spanish.


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