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Possessing Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle in Texas


It can be tempting to bring home that expensive bottle of wine you didn’t finish when you had dinner at a fancy restaurant. It may feel natural to enjoy a bottle of beer as you ride passenger in your buddy’s truck on Friday evening. Or, on girls’ night out, all the ladies, except the designated driver, may want to drink white wine in one of those plastic red cups on their way to their favorite country bar. Seems innocent enough, right?

Unfortunately, having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle can get you into big trouble, even if you’re not driving at all. You see, each state has enacted “open container” laws which make it illegal to have virtually any kind of open container with alcohol in the passenger area of a car, truck, or SUV. This usually includes:

  • A cup with alcohol
  • A mug with alcohol
  • A beer can or bottle
  • A flask with alcohol
  • A water bottle with alcohol in it
  • A reusable plastic bottle with alcohol
  • A reusable metal bottle with alcohol
  • A bottle of alcohol that has been opened and the seal has been broken

What Does Texas Law Say?

In Texas, the state’s open container law is covered under Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code, Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in Motor Vehicle. Under Sec. 49.031 it reads:

“A person commits an offense if the person 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 by a person of one or more open containers in a single criminal episode is a single offense.”

“Are there any exceptions to the law?” It is a defense if the person at the time of the offense was a passenger in a bus, limousine, or cab. Otherwise, a violation of Texas’ open container law is typically a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.

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