Open Container, Alcohol

Possession of an Alcoholic Beverage in a Motor Vehicle

Also known as Open Container, it is a crime to knowingly possesses an open container of alcohol in a passenger area of a motor vehicle. Closed or sealed containers do not count, and opened containers that are not located in the passenger area (inside the car) also do not count.

Despite public perception, it IS illegal to have an open container in a parked car, or on a public street. The statute does not differential between driving, parked, on or off.

It is also illegal in Texas for a passenger to have an open container -- even if they are not driving. Perhaps the goal is again to dissuade the driver from taking sips, or to prevent a driver from simply passing the beer can to someone else when being pulled over. Whatever the reasoning, it is possible for an officer to cite a passenger, rather than the driver, for Possession of an Alcoholic Beverage in a Motor Vehicle. However, be aware that the officer could just as easily cite BOTH the passenger and the driver, since one drink could be consumed and possessed by more than one person if one of them admits it was being shared.

You can read the specific Statute and Punishments for Open Container below.


What You Need To Know

Aside from when an Open Container is found during a DWI arrest, there's not much to Possession of an Alcoholic Beverage in a Motor Vehicle. If the alcohol is open, within view and reach of the passenger cabin area (meaning the person had possession and knowledge), then usually the best route to go is either plea bargaining or setting up a suppression Hearing to contest whether the investigation or stop was legal.

Sometimes, officers do arrest for Possession of an Alcoholic Beverage in a Motor Vehicle when the container is either empty or even in the trunk. These issues can be contested in court, often with good results.

For more information, please see our FAQs on Alcohol Related Offenses below.


Closely Related Offenses

Related areas to Open Container include tickets and offenses under the umbrella of underage drinking such as Minor in Possession of Alcohol, or minors using a fake identification card, on aMisrepresentation of Age Case.

If you're looking for other offenses that are related to this one, you can see more information below, or click related legal offenses.


Jail Release and Bond for Open Container

Although it's possible, usually a person charged with Open Container is not arrested and taken to jail -- at least in Austin. Officers will often issue a citation requiring that person to appear in court by a certain date. Still, in rare situations, Open Container does result in an arrest. Keates Law Firm can act quickly to assist with a personal bond to release that person. Be sure to read more about Bond, Personal Bonds, and Travis County Jail Releases.


Defenses for Open Container

Open Container cases are tough to contest at a trial, especially if the person is seen by the officer holding the container. Still, there may be issues if the container is old or in an area not readily accessible to the passengers.

If you'd like to talk in detail about your situation, or if you have questions, contact us for a Free Case Consultation. Keep in mind, Keates Law Firm only practices in Austin and Travis County.


Work with an Experienced Open Container Attorney

Hiring the right attorney from the beginning is important. Poor legal decisions will have a negative effect upon the case as it progresses. The Keates Law Firm has over 16+ Years Experience handling Open Container cases. Our focus is to try and have the case dismissed against you. We don't even discuss pleas until all legal and negotiation options have been explored in detail.


Call Us to talk about your particular case and situation. It's a 100% Free Phone Consultation with Criminal Defense Attorney Keates. No Sales Pitches, No Hassles. We'll see if we are the right Law Firm for you, and give you a quote. Be sure to check out Keates Law Firm's Reviews and also our past cases and Results.


How We Can Help

Your goal should be Dismissal for any Open Container charge. A Dismissal will allow a person to later seek an Expunction of a Criminal Record, which is where a Judge Orders the offense records destroyed, including police reports, court records, and prosecutor files.

Keates Law Firm has a track record of dismissals for Open Container. Most Open Container cases result in negotiated dismissals, where there's usually a trade-off of community service and a class in exchange for a dismissal -- but not always. The main hurdle is convincing the prosecutor to agree to dismiss the case, and Keates Law Firm has experience in Austin's Travis County courts doing just that.


Benefits of Working with Keates Law Firm:

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The Law in Texas on Open Container

Sec. 49.031. POSSESSION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE IN MOTOR VEHICLE.

(b) 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.


What are the Punishments?

Possession of an Alcoholic Beverage in a Motor Vehicle is a Class C Misdemeanor, meaning fines of up to $500. However, if the driver is over .08% (DWI) then this offense adds mandatory jail time as part of the DWI offense, assuming there is a conviction.


Penalties for Open Container
Level of Offense Punishment
Class C Misdemeanor Not Jailable, No more than $500 fines
Class B Misdemeanor Not more than 180 days in a county jail, and/or no more than $2,000 fines

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