What is the Open Container Law in Texas?

When driving in Texas, be aware that the state – along with most other states – has a strict policy regarding open containers. According to Section 49.02 of the Texas Penal Code, an “open container” is defined as: a bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains any amount of alcoholic beverage that is open, that has been opened, that has a broken seal, or the contents of which are partially removed.

According to Texas law, an individual can be charged with open container if he or she 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 stopped or parked. Possession by a person of one or more open containers in a single criminal episode is a single offense.

Although this law is strict, there are some basic exceptions that you should be aware of if you find yourself in such a situation. If you were the passenger in a bus, taxi, or limousine or if you were in the living quarters of a functional camper or motorhome, you may avoid charges.

If you don’t fall within an exception, you will likely be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. A Class C misdemeanor conviction in Texas will lead to a fine for no more than $500.

Don’t get confused on the differences between open container violations and drinking in a vehicle. Texas prohibits any driver from drinking any type of alcoholic beverage while in a moving motor vehicle. If you are caught drinking alcohol while driving in Texas, you will likely face an open container charge along with other alcohol-related charges. This can include DWI.

Remember that even if you submit to a breath or blood test and results show that you had a BAC (blood alcohol content) of below .08%, you can still be charged with DWI. An officer is lawfully permitted to arrest a driver for DWI if the officer finds the driver to be impaired by alcohol and/or drugs and is therefore not capable of safely operating a vehicle.

If you are stopped by an officer who believes that you may be under the influence, you will likely be asked to participate in any number of field sobriety tests as well as be expected to submit to a breath or other chemical test in order to determine BAC. All Texas drivers have given their “implied consent” to submitting to a chemical test when they obtained a Texas driver’s license.

If you choose to refuse to submit to a breath or other chemical test, you will be charged and face tough penalties. Being charged with open container, DWI, or any other type of criminal offense can be difficult. If you are facing criminal charges in Dallas, Corsicana, or Collin county, contact us at 214-984-3384. My associates and I would be happy to schedule a consultation with you in order to review the facts of your case and determine your best options going forward.