By now, everyone is aware of the fact that drinking and driving is against the law. If you are not driving, however, is there really any harm in sipping a cold beer in the passenger seat? There are times when it seems totally appropriate to have a drink in a car – as long as you are not behind the wheel. The fact is, however, that having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle is against the law in Texas.
These open container rules apply to alcohol in any form, including a recorked bottle of wine, in the passenger area of a car, truck, van, SUV, or any other kind of motor vehicle. And getting creative with your packaging does not help the matter. Any of the following are considered open container:
- A cup or mug containing alcohol
- An open beer can or bottle
- A flask containing alcohol
- A water bottle, juice bottle, or soda bottle containing alcohol
- A reusable plastic or metal bottle containing alcohol
- Any bottle of alcohol in which the seal has been broken
Texas law is clear on the matter of possessing alcohol in a motor vehicle, and Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code delineates that it is an offense to knowingly possess an open container in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that is on a public highway. This is just as true if the vehicle is being driven, is stopped, or is parked. It helps to break this law down into working parts, including:
- Open container refers to any container (containing any amount of alcohol) that is not factory sealed.
- The passenger area of the vehicle refers to that area that is designed to hold both the driver and any passengers, but it does not apply to a locked glove compartment (or another locked storage container), the vehicle's trunk, or the area behind the vehicle’s last upright seat (if the vehicle has no trunk).
- Public highway refers to the entire width – including any adjacent shoulders – of any public road, street, highway, interstate, or another type of throughway that is open for public use.
It is an exception to this law if you are a passenger on a bus, a limousine, or are riding in a cab. Possessing alcohol in a motor vehicle is a Class C misdemeanor that is punishable with a fine of up to $500.
If You Have Been Charged with Open Container, Consult with an Experienced Lawyer Today
If you are facing a charge of possessing alcohol in a motor vehicle, it is important to recognize that, if convicted, it can affect your life in surprisingly negative ways. Criminal defense lawyer Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is committed to helping you bring your strongest defense against such a conviction. Your case matters, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at (254) 220-4225 for more information today.