Under Tex. Pen. Code § 49.031(1), an open container is any unsealed bottle, can, flask, or other receptacle that can hold alcohol. Thus, if the person has opened the container, the container is “open” for the purposes of this law. If the container is completely sealed and has never been opened, the container is not “open.”
Possessing an open container of alcohol is only illegal if it is in the passenger area of a motor vehicle and accessible to the driver, such as in the cupholder, under the driver’s seat, or in the passenger seat. The passenger area of a vehicle does not include a glove compartment or other locked storage area, the area behind the upright driver’s seat, or in the trunk of the vehicle.
To violate the Texas open container law, you do not have to be driving at the time that you possess the open container. Even if you are stopped or parked on or immediately next to a public road, you could face charges for violating the open container law. Plus, both a driver and a passenger can be charged with a violation of the law, not just the driver.
Texas law does establish a few different exceptions to the general prohibition against open containers. Passengers in taxis, buses, trains, and limos all may fall within one exception. Another exception exists for occupants in the living quarters of recreational vehicles, trailers, or motor homes.
Possession of an open container is a Class C misdemeanor under Texas law. Essentially, this offense is similar to a traffic ticket, in that you cannot face jail time if convicted. The maximum penalty that you can receive is a $500 fine. If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.