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open container

In most states it is illegal to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a public roadway or on the shoulder of a public roadway. These open container laws vary from state to state and a few states allow a passenger to possess and consume an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle.

Open container offenses are usually charged as a misdemeanor or as an infraction, and penalties may include a fine, driver’s license suspension, and jail time.

Open container laws are located in a state’s statutes—often in the penal or criminal code, the transportation code, or the motor vehicle code.

In Texas, it is illegal to possess an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a public roadway, according to the Texas Penal Code. This applies regardless of whether the vehicle is being driven, stopped, or parked. The passenger area is considered any area designed for the driver or passengers to sit, excluding a locked glove compartment or the vehicle's trunk. Violation of the open container law is a Class C misdemeanor, which typically results in a fine. However, Texas does not impose a driver’s license suspension or jail time for an open container violation alone. It's important to note that this law applies to all occupants of the vehicle, not just the driver. Additionally, some exceptions exist, such as when the vehicle is a taxi, bus, or limousine, or if the passenger area is in a motor home. These regulations are designed to discourage drinking and driving and to promote public safety on the roads.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

Title 23, U.S.C., Section 154 - Open container requirements
This federal statute provides incentives for states to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the possession of open alcoholic beverage containers and the consumption of alcoholic beverages in motor vehicles.

Title 23 of the United States Code, Section 154, encourages states to adopt open container laws that meet specific federal requirements. If a state does not have such laws, a portion of the state's federal highway funds can be transferred to the state's highway safety programs or to road work. The statute outlines six requirements for state open container laws to be considered compliant: (1) the law must prohibit the possession of any open alcoholic beverage container and the consumption of any alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle; (2) the passenger area of any motor vehicle on a public highway must be covered by the law; (3) the law must apply to all alcoholic beverages; (4) the law must apply to all occupants of the motor vehicle; (5) the law must apply to all motor vehicles; and (6) the law must provide for primary enforcement. A state's failure to comply with these requirements results in the transfer of a portion of the state's federal-aid highway funds to the state's Section 402 or Section 164 transfer funds.

Title 23, U.S.C., Section 164 - Minimum penalties for repeat offenders for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence
This federal statute provides additional incentives for states to enact and enforce laws that impose minimum penalties on individuals who are repeat offenders for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Title 23, U.S.C., Section 164, requires states to enact and enforce laws that impose specific minimum penalties on individuals who repeatedly drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While this statute does not directly address open container laws, it is relevant because it reflects the federal government's broader efforts to discourage impaired driving, which is often associated with the possession of open containers in vehicles. The statute mandates that repeat offenders must face minimum penalties that include driver's license suspension for at least one year, an assessment of the individual's degree of alcohol abuse, and, as appropriate, treatment for alcohol abuse. States that fail to comply with these requirements are subject to a transfer of a portion of their federal highway funds to their state highway safety improvement program.