Open Container Charges

A high school teacher was arrested late last year for driving while intoxicated. The driver was charged with driving under the influence, open container, and failure to wear a seatbelt.The driver reported the arrest to school district administrators. The resulting consequences of these actions were steep. Driving under the influence is classified as a Class B misdemeanor that can result in 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Failure to wear a safety belt is considered a Class C misdemeanor that can result in an individual facing fines of up to $500 but no jail time. The driver also faces charges for driving with an open container.

Applicable Law

In order to understand open container charges, it is best for individuals to first appreciate what constitutes an open container. An open container is a bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains any amount of alcoholic beverage that is open, has been opened, has a broken seal, or the contents of which have been partially removed. When an individual has multiple open containers, this will be considered by law enforcement as a single offense. An individual can be charged with having an open container if the individual knowingly possesses an open container in a passenger area of an automobile on a public highway. The law does not consider whether the vehicle was being operated, stopped, or parked at that time that the open container was spotted. As a result of these laws, it is illegal for a passenger to knowingly possess an open container of alcohol while traveling in a vehicle.


A charge of an open container is treated as a Class C misdemeanor in the state of Texas. This misdemeanor can result in a fine of no more than $500. An open container can also easily lead to other charges from law enforcement. If law enforcement determines that an open alcohol container is in a vehicle, the officer will likely have probable cause to ask the driver to submit to a field sobriety test. If the driver has any alcohol in their system, an individual can be arrested and charged for driving under the influence.

Available Defenses

There are several limited reasons when it is considered legally permissible to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. One of the most common exceptions is that it is legal to have an open container in a vehicle as long as it is stored in the glove compartment, the trunk, or behind the last row of seats. Another significant example is in the case of an Uber, Lyft, or other type of vehicle that carries passengers. In the state of Texas, it is legal to have open alcohol containers in the passenger area of a vehicle that is used to transport people for pay. It is also legal to have an open alcohol container in the living area of a RV (recreational vehicle) or camper.

The Assistance of a Skilled Denton County DWI Attorney

If you face charges due to an open container or any other type of DUI related offense, you need a talented and knowledgeable attorney like the legal counsel at Wheeler Law who understands all relevant information about these charges and can craft a strong legal response in defense of your cases.

(image courtesy of Guillaume Paumier)