OPEN CONTAINER OF ALCOHOL IN TEXAS
In Texas, it is a Crime to have an Open Container of Alcohol in your car. According to Texas Penal Code Sec. 49.031 (Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in Motor Vehicle) a person commits an offense if he/she “knowingly” possess an open container in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that is located on a public highway. And each open container can be counted as a separate offense.
WHAT IS AN OPEN CONTAINER?
An Open Container is an Unsealed Container of Alcohol. More specifically, Texas does not allow drivers to have an unsealed bottle, can, or cup of any type of alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of a motor vehicle while the vehicle is located on a public highway (lane of traffic, shoulder, in motion, parked, stopped, etc.).
DO I HAVE TO BE DRIVING?
No, you do not have to be driving your car to be charged with possessing an Open Container. If you are behind the wheel of your car, and there is an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of your car (passenger seat, center console, rear seat - any location accessible to the driver) you can be charged with an Open Container whether your car is in motion, stopped, or even parked (Texas Penal Code Sec. 49.031(b))
CAN I DRIVE TO A FRIEND’S HOUSE WITH AN OPEN CONTAINER?
If you need to travel with a bottle of wine or liquor that is already open, there are a few legal ways to do that as outlined in Texas Penal Code Sec. 49.031. You can drive to your friend’s house with an Open Container if it is stored in one of the following ways:
In a Locked glove compartment or console;
In the Trunk of the vehicle;
In the Cargo area behind the last row of seats (such as in a van or SUV).
HOW SERIOUS IS THIS OFFENSE?
Facing a charge of possession of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle is less severe than a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge. You will face Class C misdemeanor charges for having an Open Container in your Car. Police Officers Generally Issue Tickets for Violations of Texas Penal Code Sec. 49.031. Unlike a DWI, the police officer who stops you will not arrest you and take you in front of a magistrate for an Open Container violation on its own. Instead, they will give you a written citation — a ticket — and a notice to appear in court. They will ask you to sign that you agree to appear in court and give you a copy of the citation. Then, the police officer will release you.
PENALTIES FOR OPEN CONTAINER:
A violation of the Open Container law is punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. However, this can also be an enhancement to other charges. For example, if you have an Open Container in your vehicle and you are arrested for DWI, you will face a minimum jail sentence of six days for the DWI, Open Container offense.
ARE THERE ANY EXCPETIONS TO HAVING AN OPEN ALCOHOL CONTAINER IN A CAR?
Yes, there are some exceptions to the law against possessing an open alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle. You can have an open container in any of the following vehicles:
Buses and taxicabs whose operators allow alcoholic beverages;
The rear passenger compartment of limousines;
The living quarters of a motorhome, camper, or similar vehicle.
CHARGED WITH OPEN CONTAINER
- Contact the Law Office of Justin K. Hall.
Open container laws in Texas should not be taken lightly. Even a seemingly simple charge for an open container can be made unjustly or used as illegitimate evidence for a bogus DWI charge. If you or a loved one has been charged with having an open container and/or DWI in Texas, contact Justin Hall immediately.