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!
Related: ALR Process for DWI in Denton County