Texas has rules when it comes to transporting your wine, beer, and spirits! Today, you’ll learn all you need to know about open container laws in Texas.
An “open container” is defined as a bottle, can, or other receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage that is open, has been open, has a broken seal, or has had some of the contents removed. Individual beer cans or bottles that haven’t been opened are not open containers, even if the box/case of beer is open. Corked wine bottles, on the other hand, are open containers.
In Texas, it’s illegal to have an open container in the passenger area of a vehicle on a public roadway. A “public roadway” includes any public road, street, highway, interstate, right-of-way, or other areas open to the public for motor vehicle travel. There are some exceptions and penalties, which we discuss next.
Texas’ open container law doesn’t apply to passengers in some types of vehicles.
Passengers can lawfully possess an open container of alcohol in the:
- Passenger area of motor vehicle that’s used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation (such as a bus, taxi, or limousine, hooray party bus!!); and
- Living area of motor home, self-contained camper, or another recreational vehicle.
Another exception allows an open container of alcohol to be placed in a locked compartment such as a glove compartment or a trunk. If the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the open container can be placed behind the last upright seat of the vehicle.
Can you be Arrested for Open Container in Texas?
Texas law says that you can only be issued a citation for an open container violation. However, if there is another violation the police could charge you with, then you can be arrested for that violation (think DWI).
A person who possesses an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle will receive a written citation and a notice to appear before a judge. If the offender signs the notice promising to appear in court later, he or she will be released immediately.
An open container violation is a Class C misdemeanor. The maximum fine is $500.
But possessing an open container can enhance the penalties for a DWI conviction involving possession of an open container. A DWI w/open container carries a minimum sentence of 6 days in jail.
Texas also has a law that makes it illegal to operate or assemble an amusement ride while intoxicated (well, duh). As with a DWI, possessing an open container while violating the amusement ride law increases the minimum jail sentence from 3-6 days.
Can a Passenger Drink Alcohol in a Vehicle?
No! In Texas, open containers are prohibited in any seating area of a vehicle, including the driver’s side, passenger side or backseat. It’s illegal to knowingly posses an open container of alcohol in a vehicle on a public highway. It doesn’t matter if the vehicle is stopped or parked. This rule doesn’t mean you can’t take open containers in your vehicle at all. They just have to be in a latch glove box in the trunk or if you don’t have the trunk, behind the last upright seat in your vehicle.
Is it Legal to have an Open Container in Public?
Yes. It is legal to drink in public in Texas, unless you are in a State Park or an area where it is specifically allowed (like places that sell alcohol, for example).