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Can I Be Arrested for an Open Container Violation in Texas?

Updated: Feb 13, 2023 @ 11:04 pm

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The short answer to this question is no. Drivers in Texas cannot be arrested merely for committing an open container violation. If, however, a person were accused of an open container violation, as well as a DWI, he or she could face arrest.

In either case, an open container violation shouldn’t be taken lightly, so if you were recently pulled over and cited for having an open container of alcohol in your car, you should consider reaching out to an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer who can explain your legal options.

Open Container Law

In Texas, a person has committed an open container violation if:

  • He or she knowingly possesses an open container;
  • The container is located in the passenger area of the vehicle; and
  • The vehicle is located on a public highway.

Under the terms of this law, a driver can even be charged with an open container violation if the vehicle is parked. The beverage in question will, however, have to fall under the definition of an open container, which is any bottle, can, or receptacle that contains alcohol and:

  • Is open;
  • Has been opened;
  • Has a broken seal; or
  • The contents of which have been partially removed.

Furthermore, the container must be in the passenger area of the vehicle, which means that a person can only be cited for this violation if the bottle, can, or container is located in the area of the car that is designated for seating. A locked glove compartment, trunk, or area behind the last upright seat, will almost never qualify under this definition. Finally, the vehicle must be on a public highway, which includes any area between, or immediately adjacent to, the boundary lines of a public road.

Receiving a Citation

Open Container Violation - Non Moving Vehicle

Violating the open container law in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor, which bears a maximum fine of $500 and no jail time. Like speeding, those who are pulled over for and accused of having an open container of alcohol in their vehicle can only be issued a citation for the violation and cannot be arrested.

In fact, state law specifies exactly what police officers are allowed to do in these cases, which includes issuing a written citation and notice to appear that contains:

  • The time and place that the person must appear before a magistrate;
  • The name and address of the accused; and
  • The specific offense with which the driver is being charged.

By signing a duplicate of the citation, a person has basically made a written promise to appear in court and so must be released by the officer. The situation is different, however, if a driver is also accused of a second violation. In these cases, he or she could face arrest, in addition to the receipt of an open container violation.

Contact Our Houston Legal Team Today

If you or a loved one were recently pulled over and cited for committing an open container violation, please call 713-802-1631 and speak with the experienced Houston open container violation lawyers at The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates about your legal options.

Houston DWI Lawyer Tad A Nelson is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the TBLS.

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