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Is Moonshine Illegal in Texas? (2022 Updated)

Last Updated on July 25, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Despite the controversy that hovers around moonshine, many drinkers still continue patronizing the controversial spirit. Due to a huge loss in the tax revenue, some banned the spirit, while some states like South Carolina passed laws to legalize moonshine production. But, is moonshine illegal in Texas?

To finally break the controversy, our team will give you a solid answer based on our extensive research. 

Moonshine: Is It Illegal in Texas?

Moonshine on desk

Yes, moonshine is illegal to distill in Texas because it is an untaxed liquor. Moonshine is the term for unlicensed distillation of high-proof liquor or simply illegal whiskey. Although the term spread widely during the Prohibition Era (1920-1933), its Texas roots produced illegally distilled spirits by early pioneers long before the 20th century. 

Recently, the Texas Liquor Control Board categorized the moonshine problem in Texas as moderate because there is not much illegal liquor left there. Law enforcement agents only found two to four operators in Northeastern Texas despite being the traditional moonshine mecca [1]. Some bootleggers were still in East Texas, where they carried on the tradition of moonshining. 

Also Read: Does Moonshine Go Bad?

Distilling Laws in Texas

The Texas State Law prohibits any individual from owning a still without obtaining a distilled spirits permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. It is to prevent manufacturing illicit beverages by illegally distilling alcohol, distilling water, or producing essential oils, regardless of whether it is for personal consumption or not.

On the contrary, the federal law allows citizens to own a still for personal consumption, but it is illegal to make moonshine or distill spirits. Except for making liquor, they are materials for distilling water or producing essential oils. Since distillation instruments can also produce ethanol fuel, the proprietor should first obtain a Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit.

Why Alcohol Distilling is Illegal in Texas

Why Alcohol Distilling is Illegal in Texas

Home distilling alcohol in Texas is illegal because it does not pay taxes. From the 1862 Revenue Act established during the American Civil War, homemade spirits and tobacco products are subject to taxes. There is also an issue of contamination for poorly-made unaged whiskey that poses a public safety risk.

However, it is perfectly legal in Texas to manufacture distilled spirits if the proprietor has a Commercial Distiller’s Permit. Production of distilled alcohol requires different federal licenses compared to the limited production of beer and wine.

Number of Gallons Allowed For Home Produce

Annually producing 200 gallons of homemade wine or malt beverages is perfectly legal in Texas [2]. The actual law allows that much for alcoholic beverages but not for distilled spirits which makes moonshine illegal. Both federal laws and Texas State Moonshine laws allow owning stills when presented with proper licenses and permits. 

The capacity of stills may vary from one distiller to another, but having less than 1 gallon will not be regulated by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Despite that, the stills should be only for producing alcohol fuel or distilled water and not to distill alcohol itself. 

Also Read:

Is It Legal To Own Moonshine in Texas?

Midnight Moon on desk with cocktail glass

No, it is not legal to own moonshine in Texas. According to federal law, any homemade distilled spirits should be paying taxes to the government. But owning distilling apparatus is federally legal as long as it will not be for alcohol distillation.

From 1876 to 1891, the local option laws started to prohibit liquor from the local legal stores in Texas. As the end of the Prohibition Era made it easier to own whiskey, the huge moonshining industry started to diminish. Authorities all over the United States have been actively pursuing moonshine producers since the end of World War 2.

Is It Legal To Sell Moonshine in Texas?

No, selling moonshine is not legal in Texas. But there are liquor stores with moonshine products on their shelves which is confusing for many people. As it is illegal to distill alcohol according to state laws, some enthusiasts argue that commercially-produced moonshine is not authentic.

Amid the American Civil War in 1861, Congress passed the law to collect taxes from distilled liquors and tobacco products as a strategy to raise funds. Since moonshine is the illegal production of distilled alcoholic products, it is not subject to taxes upon selling. If caught, selling moonshine is subject to serious state and federal law violations.

What Happens When You’re Caught Making Moonshine

What Happens When You're Caught Making Moonshine

When authorities catch you making moonshine, you can be subject to a felony punishable by the state law of Texas or even at a federal level. Texas makes moonshining, which does not have a legal permit, has criminal penalties under the federal law of around $10,000 fine, up to 5 years imprisonment, or both. 

The home distilling laws prohibit the illegal possession of unregistered stills or liquor for intentional state law violation. Authorities considered this a misdemeanor punishable by around a $5,000 fine, up to 1 year in prison, or both.

FAQs

What’s the proof of Moonshine?

Moonshine usually has an alcohol content of 80-proof. There are also varieties with 120 alcohol proof which can easily get a person drunk.

Is it legal to own Moonshine for personal use?

No, it is not legal to own moonshine for personal consumption. It is also illegal to make or distill alcohol, but it is possible to own distillation equipment under federal law with the appropriate permits. The TABC Distiller’s permit allows a business to make or distill alcohol. 

In Summary

Texas makes moonshining illegal within its state and can be punishable by serious violations and criminal charges. The term generally means that it is the illegal distillation of liquor, and with more impurities present in the drink, it is also a concern of public safety risk. Aside from that, the illegal production of alcoholic beverages also results in felony charges against the 1862 Revenue Act. 

Recently, moonshining has become a minor problem even in Northeast Texas, where it started. Owning distillation stills is perfectly legal as long as there is a TABC permit, or else it could be a misdemeanor punishable by law. 

References:

  1. https://abcnews.go.com/US/story
  2. https://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/home-manufacture-of-alcohol-state-statutes.asp

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