A Tour of Texas Open Container Laws

Texas open container laws are fairly straightforward but, depending on your vehicle, the law does have some grey area. We'll cover open container laws inside and outside a vehicle, as well as punishments for first and multiple time offenders.

Table of Contents

Not all of the updated information on this page is informed by the official Texas penal code. The section of the penal code deals with alcohol offenses in Chapter 49. More specifically, Section 49.031 deals specifically with open container laws.

Currently, Texas is not one of the eleven states that deviate significantly from the federal law concerning open containers. So if you’ve lived in another state the odds are good that the laws in the Lone Star state are the same as the one where you previously lived.

Defining Open Container

Texas defines an open container as essentially anything ((bottle, can, medieval flower pot) that can hold liquid and “contains any amount alcoholic beverage and that is open, that has been opened, that has a broken seal.” This every important to note that this applies not just to bottles and cans, but also an addendum was made to apply to “any type of receptacle” to avoid any loopholes that may arise due to the type of container not being one typically used for alcohol.

In other words, it is a myth that you can use a different type of container, either to conceal it being alcohol or to bypass the law and expect that to fly.

Open Containers In Public

The law is specifically written targeting people with an open container in a vehicle. In the state is not illegal to drink in public so long as you are not in a state park or underage. If you are in a state park and drinking, the officer will probably just let you know you’re supposed to do that.

Furthermore, if you’re publicly intoxicated, which the state defines as so drunk you are a danger to yourself and others, then that’s an entirely separate matter.

Will You Be Arrested?

In Texas, the penalty for an open container violation (in a vehicle) is simply a Class C misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are the lowest form of offense compared to felonies. Furthermore, Class C misdemeanors are the weakest of the misdemeanors (read more about felonies and misdemeanor penalties). The penalty will be a citation and a fine of up to $500. Now that’s IF you sign the citation and this is your only offense, the officer must release you. However, if you refuse to sign the citation, the officer will not release you.

Additionally, do not be surprised if the officer gives you a field sobriety test if they suspect you might have been drinking.

Areas of Your Car Where You Can Have Re-Sealed Bottles

Some areas of your vehicle are completely fine to have a container so long as the bottle can be re-sealed. The glove compartment or “any similar place” is will do. One additional thing, if your vehicle does not have a trunk, then “the area behind the last upright seat of the vehicle.” In reality, you’ll probably be fine if the re-sealed container is just not in the driver’s seat or the passenger’s seat.

Can You Be Charged With Open Container In A Motor Home

No. In Texas, you cannot be charged with an open container in a motor home if the alcohol content was not in the “passenger area” but in the living quarters of the vehicle. Additionally, if you’re in a “bus, taxicab, or limousine” you’re also excluded from open container laws.

Can You Get An Open Container If Your Car Is Parked?

Yes. You can receive an open container citation if your car is parked and there is an open bottle, can, or receptacle that contains alcohol in the car. Make sure that if you have a resealed container (of any type) that contains alcohol that you leave it in the trunk or glove compartment or, at the very least, in the backseat.

What About on a Boat?

No law prevents you from bringing alcohol onto a boat and drinking it whether the boat is parked, running, or anchored. However, that is not true of a DWI violation, because you certainly can be charged with a DWI for driving a boat while intoxicated. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Juvenile Caught With Open Container

Anyone who has lived in America during their teen years has probably felt the anxiety and downright fear of possessing alcohol under the age. In Texas, that anxiety is modestly warranted as the state carries with it a no-tolerance policy as it relates to Juveniles with open containers. Though this is a matter for juvenile law, and not covered by this section of the penal code. The state has created an infographic (of the type of quality one would expect from a state organization) for juvenile penalties in the state.

Minors in Texas are anyone under 21 and juveniles are under 18, therefore keep that in mind when reviewing the text. Don’t forget that minors are legally allowed to drink in the state IF they are in the presence of their parent, guardian, or an adult who has been permitted the parent. Alas, since it is legal for adults to drink in public in Texas, rarely, you’ll be hassled by a law enforcement officer so long as you aren’t harassing them or someone around you or being generally belligerent.