In Texas, you are restricted by many laws regarding open containers and drinking and driving. Some drinking and driving errors could even lead to criminal charges, especially if this isn’t your first run in with the law. The big question is, can you drink in a vehicle if you aren’t the one driving? It’s an interesting question that could help you defend yourself in court if you have the right kind of defense.
Most of the time, drivers can be cited if there is an open container in the vehicle, even if it’s the passengers who are drinking. In many states, you can be cited even as a passenger. That means that even though you aren’t driving or putting anyone in danger, you could be convicted of a drinking while driving charge.
There are a few states with exceptions. These include Arkansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut and Missouri. Three additional states including Louisiana, Alaska and Tennessee, have open container laws, but they don’t comply with the TEA-21 standards set by the U.S. Government.
So, if the local area does not ban open containers of alcohol in the vehicle, as a passenger, you can drink. Interestingly, in Mississippi, drivers are able to drink too as long as they stay under the legal limit. In some areas, like the French Quarter in New Orleans, open container laws have been reduced to improve tourism. Drivers and passengers in the French Quarter may have open containers in the vehicle as long as the driver is not drinking.
The laws vary everywhere, so if you have been stopped and charged with drinking and driving as a passenger, speak up. You have a right to defend yourself against unfair charges, especially if you weren’t causing any harm.
Source: FindLaw, “Can Passengers Drink Alcohol In a Car?” Oct. 29, 2014