Texas takes drinking on its public highways very seriously. On September 1, 2001, Texas passed its Open Container Law, which states:
“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.”
This adds drinking and riding to the list of illegal activities on Texas’s public roadways. No passenger may possess an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle whether that vehicle is in operation, stopped, or parked.
What is an Open Container?
Under Texas law, an open container is anything containing any amount of alcohol that is not sealed. This includes:
- Previously opened bottle
- Any other previously open container of alcohol.
Exceptions to the Texas Open Container Law
There are few exceptions to the Texas Open Container Law. Those that do exist are as follows:
- Passengers may drink when riding inside of a bus, taxi, limo, or the living quarters of a motorhome.
- Open containers can be stored in the trunk, locked glove compartment, or behind the last upright seat in a vehicle without a trunk; and
- It is legal to drink in public in Texas when outside of a vehicle so long as not specifically prohibited by law.
Defenses to Texas Open Container Charges
As with any criminal charge, an alleged offender is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are defenses available to challenge the State’s open container case, including but not limited to the above exceptions and the following:
- The open container was the product of an unlawful stop or search
- The container was unopened
- The container was not in one’s “possession”
- The alleged offender had no knowledge of open containers aboard the vehicle
- There was only an empty cup aboard the vehicle with the smell of alcohol
- There were open containers in the alleged offender’s vehicle but the alleged offender was not in the vehicle
- The alleged offender was on their way to a recycling center with empty glass bottles in the passenger area
All open container cases are different. Therefore, it is best to discuss the facts of any one case with a San Antonio DUI attorney before settling on an appropriate defense strategy.
Penalties for Possession of an Open Container
Violation of the Texas Open Contain Law can result in:
- The issuance of a citation
- A fine of up to $500
- A negative impact on educational and employment opportunities
- Higher insurance premiums.
Do not face open container charges alone. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney at Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC. Our criminal defense team could save you the impact of an open container conviction on your future.
Call Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, in San Antonio today to discuss your case and your options to avoid an open container conviction. Our attorneys believe in fighting for your legal rights and freedom.