You probably already know the state of Texas takes driving while intoxicated (DWI) very seriously, but did you know that open container laws make it illegal for anyone in a vehicle—whether it is moving or not—to have an open alcoholic beverage? Indeed, under the state’s penal code, an open container violation is a criminal offense (specifically, a Class C Misdemeanor).
So what exactly is an open container? As the name implies, any open can, bottle or other liquid-holding device with alcohol in it is considered an open container. Whether beer, wine or liquor, the type and amount of alcohol in the container is irrelevant—if it isn’t sealed, it is an open container. Furthermore, if it is in your car, you may be breaking the state’s open container laws, even if you aren’t drinking it.
Texas law prohibits open alcohol containers in any seating area of a vehicle or, be it the driver’s, passenger or back seat. Legally, any opened containers must be placed in a secure location such as a locked glove compartment or the vehicle’s trunk.
Your car does not have to be moving in order for you to break the state’s open container laws. In fact, even if the vehicle is stopped, it is illegal for you to have an open container of alcohol inside it—the only exceptions being buses, taxis, limos and motor homes/RVs. It is also important to note that the open container laws apply to any type of road or highway.
The penalties for breaking the open container laws depend on the circumstances surrounding the charge. For example, if a police officer spotted you with an open container, and no other incident was involved, you would most likely be given a citation and fined $500. However, if you are arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI), and an open container is found in your vehicle, you may be subject to much harsher penalties—including increased jail time—than a person who is convicted of DWI only.