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Open Container

Many people are aware of the criminal consequences of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, but the Lone Star State also prohibits people from having open containers of alcohol in their motor vehicles. Police officers do not have to witness alleged offenders drinking from containers of alcohol in order to charge them with open container violations.

In short, it is illegal for any person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of any automobile, regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is stopped or parked. State law does provide limited exceptions, but it is not uncommon for some people to be charged with this crime as the result of having open containers in their vehicles that they were completely unaware of or had forgotten about.

Attorney for Open Container Arrests in Houston, TX

If you were arrested for an alleged open container violation anywhere in southeast Texas, it will be in your best interest to exercise your right to remain silent until you have legal counsel. Horak Law defends clients accused of drunk driving crimes in communities all over Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, Harris County, Liberty County, Montgomery County, and Waller County.

Matt Horak is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Houston who will work tirelessly to help you achieve the most favorable resolution to your case that results in the fewest possible penalties. He can provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call our firm at (713) 225-8000 to schedule a initial consultation.

Harris County Open Container Information Center

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Texas Open Container Law Definitions

Texas Penal Code § 49.031(a) establishes the following definitions relating to the criminal offense of possession of alcoholic beverage in motor vehicle:

  • Open container — A bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains any amount of alcoholic beverage and that is open, that has been opened, that has a broken seal, or the contents of which are partially removed;
  • Passenger area of a motor vehicle —The area of a motor vehicle designed for the seating of the operator and passengers of the vehicle. The term does not include a glove compartment or similar storage container that is locked; the trunk of a vehicle; or the area behind the last upright seat of the vehicle, if the vehicle does not have a trunk;
  • Public highway — The entire width between and immediately adjacent to the boundary lines of any public road, street, highway, interstate, or other publicly maintained way if any part is open for public use for the purpose of motor vehicle travel. The term includes the right-of-way of a public highway.

Under Texas Penal Code § 49.031(b), an alleged offender commits the crime of possession of alcoholic beverage in motor vehicle if he or she knowingly possesses an open container in a passenger area of a motor vehicle that is located on a public highway, regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is stopped or parked. Possession of one or more open containers in a single criminal episode is a single offense.

Texas Penal Code § 49.031(c) establishes two exceptions to the application of Texas Penal Code § 49.031(b):

  • the passenger area of a motor vehicle designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation, including a bus, taxicab, or limousine; or
  • the living quarters of a motorized house coach or motorized house trailer, including a self-contained camper, a motor home, or a recreational vehicle.

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Open Container Penalties in Harris County

A violation of Texas Penal Code § 49.031(b) is typically a Class C misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

When a peace officer charges a person with an open container violation, the officer will issue a written citation and notice to appear instead of taking the person before a magistrate. While a notice to appear can have the appearance of a simple traffic ticket, it is actually a requirement for the alleged offender to be present in court on the date listed on the notice. Failure to appear can result in a warrant being issued for the alleged offender’s arrest.

Additionally, Texas Penal Code § 49.04(c) states that an alleged offender who had an open container of alcohol in his or her immediate possession at the time of an alleged DWI offense commits a Class B misdemeanor. In such cases, convictions are punishable by fines of up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail.

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Texas Open Container Resources

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) Laws, Rules and Regulations — The TABC is the state agency that regulates all phases of the alcoholic beverage industry in Texas. Its duties include regulating sales, taxation, importation, manufacturing, transporting, and advertising of alcoholic beverages. On this website, you can learn more about the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, administrative rules, and amended laws or legislative changes to the Code.

Open Container and Consumption Statutes — The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is a bipartisan non-governmental organization serving the members and staff of state legislatures of the United States. On this section of the NCSL website, you can learn more about the open container laws for every state in the nation. You can find information about state laws relating to open containers or alcohol consumption in motor vehicles, open containers or alcohol consumption in public, and removing opened containers from licensed establishments (which is not applicable in Texas).

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Horak Law | Houston Open Container Defense Lawyer

Were you arrested in southeast Texas for alleged possession of alcoholic beverage in motor vehicle? Do not say anything to authorities until you have first contacted Horak Law.

Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Horak represents residents and visitors in Conroe, Galveston, Houston, League City, Missouri City, Pasadena, Pearland, Richmond-Rosenberg, Spring, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, and many other nearby communities in the greater Harris County area. Call our firm at (713) 225-8000 today or submit an online contact form to let our lawyer review your case and help you understand your legal options during a confidential consultation.

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  • Texas Board of Legal Specialization | Criminal Law
  • National College for DUI Defense
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Laywers
  • Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association
  • Matt Horak has earned recognition for community leadership by Lawyer Legion