It’s not uncommon for people to think it’s perfectly legal
for them to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle as long as
they’re not the ones driving, but this is a misconception. In reality,
possessing an alcoholic beverage in a passenger area of a motor vehicle
is a misdemeanor under Texas law.
Texas’ open container law is covered under
Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code. Under Sec. 49.031, an “open container”
is more than an open bottle or can of beer, it includes any of the following
versions of an open container that contains any amount of alcohol:
- Any other receptacle, even a water bottle or Tupperware!
In order for a container to be considered “open,” it would
be one that is open or where the seal has been broken, or where the contents
have been partially removed. So, what counts as the passenger area of
a motor vehicle? It refers to the front or back seat where people can
sit, but it does not include a locked glove compartment, a trunk, or the
area located behind the last upright seat in a car or truck.
You break Texas’ open container law if you knowingly possess an open
container of alcohol on a public roadway, regardless if the car is in
motion or parked and regardless if you are a driver or a passenger. If
you possess multiple open containers in a single episode, it will not
lead to multiple charges. Instead, it will count as one offense. So, the
next time you leave your friend’s party or a restaurant with alcohol,
don’t sit with an open container in the passenger area – be
sure to put it in the trunk!
What Are the Penalties?
A violation of Section 49.031 is a Class C misdemeanor offense, punishable
by a fine not to exceed $500. While a Class C misdemeanor is considered
minor, there’s nothing minor about gaining a criminal record. To
fight your open container charge in Denton County,
contact our firm for a free case evaluation!
ALR Process for DWI in Denton County