What happens if the police stop you and there’s open alcohol?

| May 18, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

There are many restrictions on what you can do legally while driving or even riding in someone’s car. For example, you cannot legally drive around with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. Still, some people find themselves in the situation where they have half a bottle of wine left over after dinner at a restaurant or alcohol in a cup that they want to bring back home with them.

It isn’t legal for anyone to have a flask, an open beer can or even an alcoholic beverage in a to-go coffee mug in a vehicle. The rules against open containers of alcohol exist, in part, to deter people from drinking in their vehicles, a possibly fatal mistake.

However, even those who have no intention of consuming the alcohol while operating the vehicle could wind up dealing with legal issues because of an open intoxicant in their vehicle. What are the possible consequences if police catch you in possession of an open container while driving?

Police can initiate a traffic stop if they believe they see alcohol containers

If police spot an open container of alcohol, whether it’s an open bottle of rum or a flask, you could face criminal charges. The only exception applies to those taking a bus tour, traveling in a limo or storing alcohol in the living section of a recreational vehicle.

Driving with an open intoxicant isn’t just a ticket. It is a criminal offense, although it is a Class C misdemeanor, which is the lowest level criminal charge possible in Texas. A Class C misdemeanor doesn’t carry any risk of incarceration, but it does carry a fine of up to $500. These penalties apply to a driver even if their passenger is the one with the drink.

However, the penalties for the open intoxicant aren’t the only concern. The traffic stop that ensues could result in other legal complications. Noticing alcohol in the vehicle might make an officer more suspicious about a driver and give them a reason to request a field sobriety test. An open container might be what leads to someone facing an impaired driving charge. It could also be a probation violation that costs you your freedom.

Avoiding a conviction is possible, as you have the right to defend yourself. Knowing the law and the evidence against you can help you decide the best way to push back against claims that you violated the ban on open alcohol containers in your vehicle.