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Texas' Open Container Law

You can’t drink alcohol and drive in Texas – period. Your passengers can’t drink while you drive, either. It’s a law that took effect in our state in September 2001. You may have heard it called the “open container law.” In 2019 it is still illegal to have a glass, flask, mug, or beer can that is open for drinking in the car while sitting or driving in the automobile. The Dallas open container laws are important to understand so that you do not get pulled over, and arrested or given a ticket.

Dallas Police Enforce No Tolerance Laws

Under this law, you can face a criminal charge if the police catch you with any opened container of alcohol in your car. So, a scenario like this could occur: An officer pulls you over for suspected drunk driving. You are sober and pass all field tests. The officer decides to let you go. However, the officer sees that your passenger has an open can of beer in his hand. The officer could charge you with a violation of the open container law.

If convicted of an open container offense in Texas, you could face a hefty fine as well as a misdemeanor on your record. Given those stakes, you should know how the open container law works in our state.

What Is an Open Container Law Violation in Texas?

Under Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code, you violate Texas’ open container law if you:

  • Knowingly possess
  • An open container of alcohol
  • In the passenger area
  • Of a motor vehicle that is on a public highway.

You can be charged with possession of something like a bottle, can or flask if it is found nearby you, and given the circumstances, you either knew or should have known it was there. An open container is anything that holds alcohol which is open or has been opened. A bottle of whiskey with a broken seal is an example. It doesn’t matter if the car is being operated, or if it is stopped or parked.

The police must find the opened container in the car’s “passenger area,” or the cabin. You can’t be charged if the container is in the glove compartment, trunk or the area behind the “last upright seat” if the car has no trunk.

A couple of exceptions apply. Under the law, you can possess an open or opened container of alcohol if you are in a:

  • Bus, taxi or limo
  • The living quarters of a recreational vehicle (RV) or motor home.

What Are the Penalties for an Open Container Law Offense?

If a police officer decides to charge you with an open container law violation, the officer will write you a ticket. You must sign the part of the citation where you make a written promise to appear in court.

If you are convicted, you would be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor offense. The charge carries up to a $500 fine but no jail time. However, you could face incarceration if, for instance, the offense violates your probation.

Of course, the offense could lead to other consequences. For instance, a misdemeanor on your record could hurt you at work or school, or it could cause you to miss out on a future career and educational opportunities.

How To Get an Open Container Law Charge Dismissed?

Like any criminal charge in Texas, you are innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. With help from an attorney, you may be able to successfully challenge the prosecution’s case. For instance, did you really “possess” the open container? Was the container actually opened?

Other defenses may be available as well. For instance, if the police obtained evidence of an open container as the result of an unlawful stop and/or search, that evidence could be suppressed. As a result, the prosecution may need to dismiss the charge against you.

What To Do When You Are Pulled Over in Dallas?

When a Dallas Police officer has stopped you, they can enforce what’s known as probable cause, claiming almost anything to get access to enter your premises without a search warrant. Remember to cooperate with them and answer their questions but do not volunteer information and be prepared to have your vehicle searched. It is better to conduct their drinking driving tests on-site than to go to the hospital to have your blood drawn for levels of BAC intoxication.

Get Help from an Experienced Dallas Open Container Law Defense Lawyer

If you recently were charged with an open container law violation in Dallas, Fort Worth or a nearby area in Texas, you should think twice before you simply plead guilty. You want to avoid having a conviction on your record. Contact Kraft & Associates and learn about how you can fight the charge. We have been serving clients since 1971. We can discuss your case today.