Texas is one of the most popular states when it comes to purchases of motorhomes and recreational vehicles. Indeed, many Texans spend a good part of the year living full-time out of their vehicles. And while most activities of daily RV or motorhome living do not raise any legal issues, there is one thing you do need to pay attention to–Texas open container laws.
Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code deals with “possession of [an] alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle.” The general rule is that it is considered a Class C misdemeanor–basically, a traffic ticket–for a driver or passenger to possess an open container of alcohol in a vehicle that is on a public highway. Two things to keep in mind here: First, it does not matter if the vehicle is moving, only that it is on a public road or “immediately adjacent to the boundary lines” of a road. Second, you do not have to be holding the open container when cited; it need only be located somewhere within the seating area of the vehicle.
This brings us to motorhomes and RVs. Suppose you are driving your motorhome on a public highway while your spouse is in the back drinking a beer. Is this an open container violation? Not necessarily. Section 49.031 contains an exception for “the living quarters” of a motorhome, RV, or “self-contained camper.” This exception only applies to passengers, not drivers, so your spouse’s open container is probably okay.
Now, if your spouse left their open container on the passenger seat next to you in the cab while they went back into the living quarters, that would be a different situation. The exception strictly applies to “living quarters” only. And if you are stopped by a police officer, they will probably assume the open container belongs to you as the driver, which is never acceptable under the law. So you will probably get ticketed.
Are Open Containers Legal in Privately Owned RV Parks?
As noted above, the open container laws can apply even when an RV or motorhome is parked on the side of the road. But what if it is parked on private property, such as an RV park? In that case, it is not considered a violation of the Penal Code, which only applies to public highways or rights-of-way. But the RV park may have its own rules and policies governing alcohol use that still need to be followed.
Get Legal Advice from a Texas Open Container/DWI Lawyer Today
Finally, it is important to reiterate that while it is okay for RV or motorhome passengers to have and consume alcohol within living quarters, it is never acceptable for anyone to operate such a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. DWI is more than a traffic ticket. Even a first-time offense is a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry jail time. So if you are cited for DWI or an open-container violation and need legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston, League City or Houston today.