It’s illegal to drive while intoxicated in all 50 states. In Texas, DWI laws are some of the strictest in the country, and they carry heavy penalties. But did you know that you can also face penalties just for having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle? Learn more about open container laws in Texas below.
At Abrams Trial Law, we routinely help people who are facing criminal charges throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. If you are facing an open container charge, call us for help today.
What Is the Open Container Law in Texas?
Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code says that you cannot possess an “open container” in a “passenger area” of your vehicle while on a “public highway. Like any law, it’s important to specifically clarify each term. Here’s how the law defines these items. By “open container,” the law means any container that has any amount of alcohol in it and that is open, and which has a broken seal or the contents of which are partially removed.
The passenger area of a vehicle is defined as any area of the vehicle designed for seating. But it does not include:
- Glove compartment
- A locked console
- An area behind the last upright seat in the motor vehicle (if there’s no trunk)
Penalties for Open Container Violations
While you will not go to jail for an open container violation alone, it is a criminal charge. An open container charge is a Class C misdemeanor, which may go on your permanent record and can carry a fine of up to $500. More importantly, an open container can be used as evidence that you were driving under the influence of alcohol-and a criminal conviction involving alcohol may later be used as evidence in a subsequent DWI case.
A criminal conviction, no matter how minor it may seem, will generally follow you for the rest of your life. It can impact your ability to get a job, it can hurt your ability to get good car insurance at an affordable rate, and it can even affect things like military enlistment or college acceptance.
How to Fight an Open Container Violation
If your violation also involves driving under the influence, you can expect prosecutors to come down hard, because they are looking to protect the community. An open container violation indicates that you may be at risk for drunk driving. Nevertheless, a skilled trial lawyer may be able to chip away at the government’s case and make it difficult for them to prove it. Likewise, there are often situations where an experienced criminal defense lawyer can work to get the charges dropped to a lesser charge that will not carry the criminal penalties of a misdemeanor.
Get Legal Help Today
Warren Abrams and Joshua Abrams are both former felony assistant district attorneys. Warren Abrams is a board-certified criminal specialist who has given lectures at seminars teaching lawyers how to win Driving While Intoxicated cases. Joshua Abrams is a former chief prosecutor and has instructed young prosecutors in how to try Driving While Intoxicated cases.
Contact us today to schedule a private and confidential meeting with an attorney. We can speak to you, listen to your side of the story, and explain your options.