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Possession Of Alcoholic Beverages In A Motor Vehicle In Texas

Texas Penal Code 49.031 – Possession of Alcoholic Beverages in a Motor Vehicle

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What is possession of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle?

Section 49.031(b) tells us when a person can be found guilty of possessing alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle, sometimes called Texas’s “open container” law (shown in italics below):

“A person commits an offense if the person knowingly possesses an open container in a passenger area of a motor vehicle that is located on a public highway, regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is stopped or parked.”

49.031(b) explains that a person violates Texas’s open container law if he or she knowingly has an open container with alcohol in it in a car on a Texas road.

The statute also makes it clear that it does not matter if the car is driving down the road or just parked and turned off.

What is an “open container?”

49.031(a)(1) explains that an open container is any bottle, can, or other receptacle that has any alcohol in it.

This includes any container that is open, has been opened, has a broken seal, or has had any of the contents partially removed.

What is the “passenger area of the vehicle?”

Let’s review what 49.031(a)(2)(A)-(C) tells us the passenger area of the vehicle is (shown in italics below):

“(2) “Passenger area of a motor vehicle” means the area of a motor vehicle designed for the seating of the operator and passengers of the vehicle.  The term does not include:

               (A)  a glove compartment or similar storage container that is locked;

               (B)  the trunk of a vehicle; or

              (C)  the area behind the last upright seat of the vehicle, if the vehicle does not have a

                trunk.”

The statute tells us the passenger area is any part of the car where the driver or passenger can sit.

However, 49.031(a)(2)(c) specifically explains that a locked glove compartment and the trunk are not considered a passenger area. The statute also says that any area behind the last upright seat in a car is excluded, so long as the car does not have a trunk.

Can a person ever have an open-alcohol container in a vehicle?

Yes. 49.031(c)(1)-(2) tells us that it is legal to have an open container as a passenger when you are a patron in a taxi, bus, or limo, or if the alcohol container is in the living area of an RV or camper.

What is the penalty for violating the open-container law in Texas?

49.031(d) tells us that it is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500.


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