January 17, 2024

Having an open container of an alcoholic beverage in your car may not seem like a big deal. However, if you get caught with one in Texas, you could get a fine and a tarnished record!

How do you avoid breaking the open container law in Texas? There’s more to it than you think.

In this article, we get down to the nitty-gritty of the open container law. You’ll learn its nuances so you can proceed with transporting open bottles of alcohol without any issues.

Are you ready? Let’s dive in.

What Is an Open Container in Texas?

In Texas, an open container refers to an unsealed alcoholic drink. This includes bottles, cans, or receptacles containing any amount of alcoholic beverage.

It doesn’t matter if the drink is full or partially empty. Yes, it’s in an open container even if the beverage is in a flask, jug, or cup.

What Is the Open Container Law in Texas?

The open container law is all about possession of alcoholic beverages in your motor vehicle. This law under Section 49.031 of the Penal Code of Texas states that you can’t knowingly have an alcoholic beverage with a broken seal in your car.

In Texas, the open container law is valid for vehicles on a public street, highway, or interstate. Being on any road or parking area that’s for public use makes you subject to this law.

On top of this, passengers can’t have open containers of alcohol. Unfortunately, this is true even though they’re in the backseat and not driving the car.

It may sound unreasonable, but the open container law is for preventing cases of public drinking, especially in vehicles. It helps keep the community safe from the dangers of drunk drivers!

Is the Open Container Law Applicable to Parked Vehicles?

Yes. You can get a citation for open containers even if your car isn’t moving. As long as you park in a public area with an unsealed alcoholic beverage, you can get a fine.

Because of this, it’s vital to place your open containers in the designated areas of your car!

How Do You Transport Open Containers in Texas?

What do you do if you want to bring home a bottle of wine left over from a party? Don’t worry. Here are a few ways for you to transport open containers in Texas.

  • Place It in a Locked Compartment: You can have open containers in a glove compartment or similar storage area within your vehicle. Be aware that the glove compartment must be locked at all times.
  • Keep It in the Trunk: The trunk is an appropriate place for an open container. You can transport open containers as long as you keep them at the back of your car.
  • Behind the Backseat: If your car doesn’t have a trunk, you may keep the open container behind the last upright seat of the vehicle.

Avoid keeping open containers on top of the car seats or in cup holders. If an officer finds one in the wrong place, you’ll get a ticket!

What Are the Expectations to the Open Container Law in Texas?

Below are exceptions to the open container law in Texas.

  • Transportation Services: You can bring an open container into a vehicle when you’re paying for the ride. Transportation services include limousines, public buses, and taxicabs.
  • Motorized Houses: The open container law doesn’t apply to those in a motorized trailer. You can keep open bottles in motorhomes, RVs, and self-contained campers.

What Happens if You Get Caught With an Open Container in Texas?

Getting caught with an open container will result in a Class C misdemeanor. A Class C misdemeanor is the lowest form of criminal offense in Texas. Still, it can have serious consequences.

First, you’ll receive a fine with a maximum of $500. What’s more, even if you pay this, there’s still a possibility of having the offense on your permanent record.

In Texas, if you settle a fine, it may mean you’re admitting to the crime. As a result, you’ll have a conviction on your record.

A great way to prevent this from happening is by having representation. With the help of a good lawyer, you can erase Class C misdemeanors from your record once you pay the fine!

Can You Get Arrested for an Open Container Violation in Texas?

No, you can’t get arrested or jailed for having an open container violation in Texas. However, an officer may give you a written citation and a notice to appear before a magistrate.

Note that the officer could release you only once you sign a duplicate citation. This is a written promise that you’ll appear before a magistrate at the agreed time and place.

Can You Possess an Open Container in Public in Texas?

Section 109.35 of the Texas penal code says that cities in Texas can prohibit possession of open containers even if you’re not in a vehicle. It all depends on whether a municipality decides if open containers can put the citizens in danger.

When this happens, the city will have maps and diagrams showing the coverage of the open container law.

In general, you should pay attention when you’re near central business districts and homeless shelters. These places are more likely to implement open container rules than residential areas.

Be aware that the municipalities aren’t in charge of regulating open containers in motor vehicles. They also can’t prohibit wine used by priests and ministers for sacramental purposes.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the open container law in Texas is crucial to avoid getting fines and misdemeanors. You have to know the right places to keep open containers during transport. Plus, you should know which public spaces ban unsealed alcoholic beverages.

While it may seem like a minor offense, getting caught with an open container in Texas may result in a permanent mark on your record.

If you don’t want this to happen, you may want to consider seeking legal advice from a capable lawyer. With representation, you can get out of a violation with an expunction!