Open Container Laws in Texas | Where are Open Containers Allowed?

By Benson Varghese

Last Updated: June 24th, 2021
Published on: October 4th, 2017
Person drinking alcohol behind the wheel of a car

Have You Ever Wondered if the Following are Legal?

  • Can you drink in a car if you are not driving?
  • Can you take a re-corked bottle of wine or a half-empty bottle of liquor home with you?
  • Can you drink in a limo?
  • Can you drink while you are walking around in public?

Texas open container laws are strict and somewhat confusing. Here’s a look at open container laws in Texas – both in vehicles and in public places:

What is an “Open Container?”

Under Texas law, an “open container” means a bottle, can, or any 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.

Based on this definition, open bottles of wine that are corked would be considered an open container, as would half-empty bottles of any liquor. Drinks in a cup or flask would be considered open containers, even if they have lids like Yeti cups.

Can a Passenger Drink Alcohol in a Vehicle?

Texas prohibits open containers in any seating area of a vehicle, including the driver’s side, passenger side or backseat. Under Texas Penal Code 49.031, it’s illegal to knowingly possess an open container of alcohol in a vehicle on a public highway, regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is stopped or parked. So if you are thinking about pre-partying on the way to an event, remember drinking in the vehicle is illegal, even if you’re not driving.

Are There Exceptions to Drinking Passengers?

Yes. It is legal to have an open container in buses, taxis, limos, and in the living quarters of motor homes or RVs. So it’s fine to drink in a limo or party bus, for example.

Go ahead and drink in the back of a limo. It’s legal.

Can I Drive with a Half-Empty Bottle of Wine or Alcohol from One Place to Another?

Open containers must be stored in the trunk or a locked glove compartment. So what should you do if your vehicle does not have a trunk? You are allowed to put the bottle behind the last upright seat in the vehicle. If your open container is not in one of these areas, you can be cited for having an open container.

Can I be Charged for Having an Open Container if My Car Wasn’t Moving?

Yes, Texas law doesn’t require for your vehicle to be in motion to be cited for an open container violation. As long as you are on a public road, street, highway, interstate or other publicly maintained way, you can be charged if you have open drinks in a vehicle. This could apply to tailgating on a public street, for example.

open container

Is it Legal to Have an Open Container in Public?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no statewide ban prohibiting public consumption of alcohol in Texas, unless you are in a state park or in an area of a city where it has specifically been deemed illegal. The rules regarding consumption of alcohol in public fall into two general categories: public places and public places that are permitted to sell alcohol, like bars, taverns, nightclubs, and restaurants.

  • Public Places – You cannot drink in a public place on: Sunday between 1:15 a.m. and noon and Monday through Saturday between 12:15 a.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Public Places Permitted to Sell Alcohol – You cannot consume alcohol in a public place that is a permitted to sell alcohol on: Sunday between 2:15 a.m. and noon.Monday through Saturday between 2:15 a.m. and 7 a.m.

It is a Class A misdemeanor to sell or consume alcohol at a place permitted to sell alcohol during the restricted timeframes. Special rules apply to sports venues, wineries, distilleries, and special events.

Additionally, cities can prohibit the possession of an open container or the public consumption of alcohol pursuant to Alcoholic Beverage Code Section 109.35.

Can You Drink in Public in Fort Worth?

Fort Worth prohibits possession of an open container or consumption of alcohol within 1,000 feet of a homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment center not located in the central business district.

Can you Drink in Public in Arlington?

Arlington has not adopted any ordinances regarding the public consumption of alcohol as of the most recent City Code of Ordinances available online.

What is the Punishment for Violating Texas Open Container Laws?

Possession of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine. In most cases, you will not end up in handcuffs. Police will write you a ticket.

The Takeaway from Texas Open Container Law

Don’t drive with an open can or bottle in your vehicle (even if you put the cork back in the bottle) – unless it is in the trunk or you are in a bus, taxi or limo. If you do get cited for an open container, contact a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. Having any type of alcohol-related conviction on your record can carry serious consequences that could impact your education, employment or housing. An experienced attorney will work to resolve your case in a manner that will keep a conviction off of your record. We can help.

Contact Us

Call for a complimentary strategy session. During this call we will:

  • Discuss the facts of your open container case;
  • Discuss the legal issues involved, including the consequences of the allegation; and
  • Discuss the defenses that could apply and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.

Call us at (817) 203-2220 or you can also contact us online.

Open Container Laws in Texas | Where are Open Containers Allowed?
Varghese Summersett PLLC
Varghese Summersett PLLC