In Texas, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your car. Or, sometimes? Multiple conversations on Reddit reveal just how confused Texans are about open container laws.
Most of the confusion lies between city or municipality laws and the ones that the state tries to enforce. In many situations, you can get into trouble for having an open container, no matter where you are in the state.
Learn below what you need to know about open container laws in the state, why they’re confusing, and why some believe they should be eliminated altogether. Then find out what you can expect if you’re caught breaking the laws.
Open Container Laws in Texas
The current open container law in Texas is outlined in the statute Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in a Motor Vehicle.
A person commits this offense if they knowingly have an open container in the passenger areas of a car, truck, or other types of vehicles on a public highway, no matter whether it is parked, stopped, or fully in motion.
Effectively, in order for a police officer to charge you with an open container, you don’t even need to be driving the car. As long as you’re on a public highway, street, road, or interstate, having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is enough.
What Texas Considers an Open Container
It’s important to also understand what is considered an open container under this law. Under the Texas statute, an open container is defined as a can, bottle, or another receptacle that has any amount of an alcoholic beverage in it that is open, that has any contents partially removed, or that has a broken seal.
Another part of the statute that needs clarification is what is defined as the passenger area of a vehicle. This is simply where people sit when in the car.
In order to be charged, the container must be in the passenger area and within reasonable reach of and visible from the driver’s seat, as well.
If the alcohol is in the glove box, a locked storage area in the car, the trunk, or the area behind the backseat if you have no trunk, then it’s not considered to be in the passenger area.
Why There Is Confusion in Texas
There is a lot of confusion about open container laws in Texas because there are many overlapping municipal and county jurisdictions that may not support the state law.
On top of that, the statewide laws regarding open containers in vehicles ignore any sort of actual impairment from alcohol on behalf of the driver.
It seems to a lot of people as if this is simply an excuse for the police to stop citizens who may not be causing any issues or committing any other type of crimes.
What Can Happen If You Are Caught Breaking the Law
Regardless of any confusion surrounding the law, if you are found by police in violation of the open container law, then you can face consequences.
Being caught under the influence of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle can lead to more serious charges than an open container, such as a DWI.
If you are only cited for possession of an open container, it is a Class C misdemeanor. As long as your blood alcohol level doesn’t exceed the legal limit of 0.08, then you most likely will only be issued a ticket and be made to pay a fine.
It is important to remember that even a misdemeanor shows up on your criminal record, so it can have an impact on your life.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.