Jason Stephens | January 5, 2023 | Texas Law
If you enjoy the occasional drink while out at a restaurant, bar, or club, you’re not alone. Many individuals regularly indulge in alcohol as a stress reliever or as an opportunity to socialize with friends and family. However, it’s essential to understand Texas’ laws before transporting open alcoholic beverages in your vehicle.
Under Texas Penal Code § 49.031, drivers cannot transport alcohol in an open container except in the following places:
- The trunk of a vehicle
- The area behind the last upright seat of a vehicle, if there is no trunk
- A locked glove compartment or similar area
It’s illegal to carry open containers — like a half-filled wine bottle or open can of beer — anywhere within reach of the driver, including your backseat, front seat, or cup holders.
It’s also very important to note that “open” does not simply refer to a bottle with the cap off, for example. It can also refer to a container that has previously been opened, its seal cracked, or its contents partially gone.
Drivers caught with open bottles of alcohol in their cars can face misdemeanor charges and fines.
Can You Still Be Charged with an Open Container Offense if You Aren’t Driving?
Suppose you’re parked on the side of the road, checking directions on your phone while on a night out with your friends. You have a half-consumed container of wine in your backseat, but you’re not drinking from it. Suddenly, a police officer pulls up behind you and walks up to your window.
You might assume you’re safe from violations since you’re not driving and the bottle is not within your immediate reach, but you’d be wrong. Texas law applies to any vehicles within a public roadway, moving or parked.
Note that the passengers of a vehicle that contains an open container can also receive a misdemeanor. Therefore, if you are in the vehicle with someone with an open bottle of alcohol, you should advise them of the law and ask them to move it to a locked glove compartment or the trunk to avoid any potential legal complications.
Can You Be Charged with an Open Container Even if You’re Completely Sober?
Yes, you can still violate the Texas open container law even if you’re entirely sober. So rather than risk a misdemeanor and fines, keep your alcohol stored properly when transporting it.
Of course, if a police officer finds you drinking and driving with an open container, your risk of additional fines and penalties increases. Texas Penal Code § 49.04 mandates a Class B misdemeanor charge and a minimum jail time of six days if you have an open container in your vehicle and are driving while intoxicated (defined by Texas as having a blood alcohol concentration level exceeding 0.08).
Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more are subject to a Class A misdemeanor.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Texas Open Container Law?
There are two exceptions to the Texas open container law. For one, when using a taxi or limousine service, individuals carrying an open container are exempt from charges if they keep the alcohol in the passenger area. However, it should not be reachable by the taxi or limousine driver.
Individuals driving recreational vehicles, camper homes, or motor homes may also claim an exemption from the Texas open container law as long as the beverage is not within reach of the driver.
Be Aware of Texas Open Container Laws
Drivers and passengers must remain aware of Texas open container laws to prevent potential legal charges. Class A, B, and C misdemeanors remain on your record for years and can prevent you from obtaining employment or attending college.
If you’re in a car accident involving alcohol, you could face severe injuries and legal problems, in which case you should seek help from an attorney.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Fort Worth, TX
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Fort Worth and need legal help, contact our Fort Worth car accident lawyers at Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents to schedule a free consultation.
Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
1300 S University Dr # 300
Fort Worth, TX 76107