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What is the Open Container Law in Texas?

It’s common knowledge that it’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or above. However, in Texas, it is possible to be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) if your BAC is less than .08% as long as the state can prove that your ability to drive was “impaired” by alcohol or drugs. That’s something to keep in mind the next time you drink.

Like other states, it’s not only illegal to drink in drive, in Texas it’s also illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. Even if your car is parked, and even if you have no intention of driving, you cannot have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. This includes passengers who have zero intention of driving.

If a passenger is in the front seat or even in the back with a cup of alcohol or a beer, or any other alcoholic beverage, they too can face criminal charges if they are caught with an open container of alcohol. In other words, drivers aren’t the only ones who can get in trouble. Read on as we examine Texas’ open container law in further detail.

What the Law Says About Open Containers of Alcohol

Texas’ open container law is covered under Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code, Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in Motor Vehicle. Under Sec. 49.031, an “open container” refers to any can, bottle, or other container that contains alcohol and has been opened, its seal removed, or some of the contents removed. So, this could include a cup of alcohol, the bottle of wine you brought home from dinner, or even a flask kept in a coat or purse.

Under Sec. 49.031(b) it states: “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.” But what exactly is the passenger area? It refers to the front and back seating area designed for the driver and the passengers. If there’s a seatbelt, there shouldn’t be any open containers of alcohol in that area.

An offense under Sec. 49.031 is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500 under Section 12.23 of the Texas Penal Code.

Are you, or a member of your family facing charges for having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle? If so, contact us to meet with a Plano DWI attorney.