Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code, known mostly for the Texas DWI statutes, includes the Texas “Open Container” law. When most folks talk about the Open Container law, they are referring to whether or not it is legal to have an open alcoholic beverage (beer, wine, or liquor) in the passenger area of a car.

I usually see two areas of confusion regarding the public’s awareness of this particular charge. These are covered in Section 49.031, Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in Motor Vehicle.

Many people seem to believe that there is a front seat/back seat distinction, but there’s not. Also, drivers and passengers are included. With few exceptions, it’s not legal to have an open container of beer or other alcohol in your car in Texas.

The exceptions? (1) passengers in taxis, buses, limos and (2) motor homes and RVs.

Also, it is legal to keep it in a locked glove compartment or trunk. If the car has no trunk, it may be stored in the area behind the last upright seat.

Assuming that the Open Container violation is the only offense that the officer witnesses, it is one of the few Class C crimes in Texas that the police must issue a citation for, rather than being given the discretion to arrest. (As opposed to seatbelt and most other traffic violations, which are arrestable offenses.)

Finally, this is not to be confused with the DWI with Open Container provision, contained in 49.04, the main Texas DWI statute, which raises the minimum term of confinement for DWI convictions from 72 hours to six days.