Texas Open Container Laws

What is Texas Open Container?

In Texas, “open container” refers to a law that regulates the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages in public places. Under this law, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. Such as the driver’s or passenger’s seat, or any area readily accessible to the driver or passengers.

An open container typically refers to any alcoholic beverage that has been partially consumed, has a broken seal, or has a removed or punctured cap. It is important to note that the open container law applies to both drivers and passengers. And the vehicle does not have to be in motion for the law to be enforced. Violating the open container law can result in fines, potential arrest, and other legal consequences.

Open Container in Motor Vehicle

The primary open container law in Texas is outlined in Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code. This law states that any person who is aware of having an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of a car on a public road, whether it is moving, stopped, or parked, is breaking the law.

An “open container” is any sort of vessel that has an alcoholic beverage inside it. This includes cans, bottles, and even plastic cups. It is permissible to have a sealed and closed container of alcohol in your vehicle.

For example, if you buy a case of beer and you don’t open it until you get home, there is no problem. If any of the cans have had their tabs opened, it is considered an unlawful open container in the car.

Open Container in Motor Vehicle (Continued)

Secondly, the open container must be present in the “passenger area” of the vehicle. It’s important to note that the law does not solely apply to the driver having an open container. It is unlawful for anyone inside the vehicle, including passengers, to possess an open container in the passenger area, which encompasses the entire seating section.

However, there are exceptions. The areas that are not allowed to be accessed, such as glove compartments that are secured, trunks, and the space behind the back seat, are not included. Additionally, certain passenger vehicles like limousines, taxicabs, and motor homes have separate exceptions. In most cases, passengers in certain types of vehicles are allowed to have open containers, however the driver is not.

Lastly, the vehicle must be situated on a public highway, which refers to a public street. The law explicitly states that the vehicle does not need to be in motion. Even if you are inside a parked car on the side of the street, it is still illegal to possess an open container.

Penalties of Having and Open Container

The penalties for an open container violation in Texas can vary depending on the circumstances and previous offenses. Here is a general overview of the potential consequences:

  • First Offense: Fine: Up to $500 with possible community service up to 6 days.
  • Subsequent Offenses: Fine: Up to $2,000, mandatory minimum jail time of 6 days or up to 180 days and possible community service up to 60 days.

It’s important to note that these penalties apply to individuals who are convicted of possessing an open container in a motor vehicle on a public highway. The violation can apply to both drivers and passengers.

In addition to the legal penalties, an open container violation can also result in other consequences, such as an increase in insurance premiums, a negative impact on your driving record, and potential limitations on future employment opportunities, especially if the offense is related to driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Penalties for Having a DUI and have an Open Container

If you are caught with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and an open container in Texas. The consequences can be more severe compared to an open container violation alone. The specific penalties will depend on the circumstances of your case and any prior offenses. Here are the potential consequences:

Enhanced DUI Penalties:

  • Higher fines: DUI penalties typically involve higher fines compared to a standalone open container violation.
  • Mandatory minimum jail time: In addition to the penalties for DUI. Having an open container may result in mandatory minimum jail time, which can range from a few days to several months. Depending on the circumstances and prior convictions.
  • Probation: You may be placed on probation, which can include mandatory alcohol education programs, community service, and regular check-ins with a probation officer.
  • License suspension: Your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked for a period determined by the court or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Impact on DUI Case:

  • Aggravating factor: Having an open container can be seen as an aggravating factor in your DUI case, potentially leading to harsher sentencing.
  • Increased likelihood of conviction: The presence of an open container can strengthen the prosecution’s case against you and make it more challenging to defend against the DUI charges.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

If you are facing open container charges. It is highly recommended that you seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A criminal defense lawyer can provide you with essential legal advice, guidance, and representation throughout the legal process.

As an experienced criminal defense attorney we can review the facts of your criminal case, investigate the charges against you. And develop a strong defense strategy tailored to your specific situation. As well as negotiate with the prosecution on your behalf and advocate for your rights and interests in court.

In addition, we can provide you with information about the potential indecent exposure consequences of a conviction. Including the possibility of jail time, fines, and other penalties. And work to minimize the impact of the charges on your life and future.

Overall, the criminal law justice system can be complex and scary. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer can significantly improve the outcome of your case. Your lawyer can help you comprehend the legal process, outline your choices, and provide advice and support. They can also help you review any evidence gathered against you, prepare witness statements, and investigate any mitigating circumstances.