What Is Texas’ Open Container Law In Cars?
Brian White | November 28, 2017 | Texas Laws
You most likely know that it is illegal to drive while intoxicated in the State of Texas. “Intoxication” legally occurs when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of the driver is at or above 0.08%.
Did you know that you could get in trouble for containers of alcohol being in the cab of your vehicle as you drive, even if you aren’t the one drinking it?
Texas’ open container laws make it a criminal offense to have open containers of alcohol in the vehicle within certain parameters. Learn how to stay on the right side of this law in Texas.
Texas Penal Code Section 49.031
An “open container” is the legal term for an unsealed or open bottle, can, or other container that contains any amount of alcohol. Texas State Penal Code Section 49.031 makes it illegal to “knowingly possess an open container in a passenger area of a motor vehicle on a public highway, regardless of whether the vehicle is moving or parked.” Sitting in your parked car and drinking an alcohol beverage is against the law in Texas if you’re parked on a public street, road, highway, or other publicly maintained way.
Exceptions to the open container law are as follows:
- If the open container is in the glove department, locked storage container, the trunk of the vehicle, or the area behind the last upright seat of the vehicle if there is no trunk. Open containers in these areas are not in the “passenger area,” and are not against the law.
- If the person with the open container is a passenger in a vehicle designed for transporting people for compensation. This includes limousines, charter buses, party buses, and taxicabs.
- If the person with the open container is in the living quarters of a motorized house couch, including self-contained campers, recreational vehicles (RVs), or motor homes.
In a typical vehicle, it is an offense for your passenger(s) to have open containers of alcohol in the passenger seat or back of the vehicle, regardless of whether or not anyone is drinking the alcoholic beverage. An open container offense in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor. If an individual possesses more than one open container of alcohol at the traffic stop, it is a single offense.
Punishment for Breaking the Open Container Law in Texas
If law enforcement stops you for breaking the open container law, you will receive a written citation and a notice to appear before a magistrate. As long as you sign the notice agreeing to appear, the officer will not detain you and take you before the magistrate. If the court finds you guilty of traveling with an open container of alcohol, you will receive a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500 in fines. The open container law in Texas is strict, as are most alcohol-related laws in the Lone Star State.
Note that Texas’ open container law differs from the law pertaining to drinking alcohol while driving. If caught drinking alcohol from an open container while driving, you could receive an open container citation as well as a more serious charge, such as driving while intoxicated (DWI).
Even if a breath test shows that your BAC is less than 0.08%, Texas cops can charge you with DWI if they believe you are intoxicated enough to impair driving. A DWI on top of an open container conviction can result in serious criminal penalties.
If you have been involved in a an accident because of a drunk driver, call a Houston DUI accident attorney at Brian White & Associates to see how we can help you get the compensation you need and deserve.