Texas Open Container Laws
It’s hot in Texas. Walk into any Valero around 5:00 p.m. one afternoon, and it’s not uncommon to see folks buying beers. Often times, those beers are cracked open before getting home. Drinking while driving and/or having access to unsealed alcohol while driving is a violation of the Texas Open Container Law.
The good news is that it is one of only a handful of offenses a person cannot be arrested for. The bad news is that it is still a Misdemeanor, and though it may not seem like a big deal, can have lifelong consequences.
What is the Law in Texas About Open Containers?
The offense is described in Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code:
(b) A person commits an offense 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.
What is an Open Container?
In Texas, an open container is anything containing any amount of alcohol that is not sealed. This includes capped, but previously opened bottles, cans, flasks or anything else used to hold alcohol. For example, a half-consumed bottle of wine, or an open beer would count as an open container. A fully sealed bottle, on the other hand, would not. Whether or not a seal is broken is a factual question that a jury would determine in the event that you take your case to trial.
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. It doesn’t matter if the vehicle is stopped or parked.
Are There Exceptions to Drinking Passengers?
Yes. It is legal to have an open container in buses, taxis, limos, and motorhomes.
Can I Drive with a Previously Opened Bottle from One Place to Another?
Yes. However, open containers are required to be stored in the trunk or locked glove compartment.
The “No Trunk” Exception
No trunk in your Jeep or Smart Car? No problem. It is legal to place the bottle behind the last upright seat in the vehicle.
Can I be Charged for Having an Open Container if I was Parked?
Yes. You don’t have to be in motion. If you’re on a public road, street, highway, interstate or other publicly maintained thoroughfare, you can be charged. This could apply to tailgating on a public street, for example (though some campuses and sports facilities make exceptions).
Is it Legal to Have an Open Container in Public?
Yes. It is legal to drink in public in Texas, unless you are in a State Park or an area where it is specifically prohibited (like places that sell alcohol, for example).
Can you be Arrested for Open Container in Texas?
Texas law says that you can only be issued a citation for an open container violation. However, if there is another violation the police could charge you with, then you can be arrested for that violation.
What are the Penalties for Open Container in Texas?
Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in Motor Vehicle is a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 under state law.
What are the Consequences for Open Container in Texas?
Class C Misdemeanors are not harmless. A Misdemeanor conviction, even something this small, can negatively impact college admissions and financial aid for students. It can also affect employment opportunities and in some cases can jeopardize professional licenses. A conviction for violating the Texas Open Container law can also lead to higher insurance costs.
San Antonio Open Container Lawyer
Criminal defense is not a DIY endeavor. If you or a loved one has been charged with an Open Container in Texas, don’t hope for the best. Get the best. Your record and your future are at stake.
Contact Trey Porter Law today for a Free Confidential Consultation.