If you’re planning a trip to Texas or you recently got your driver’s license, you need to know the law. If you don’t know how the state’s open container law works, you could end up in trouble. There are many misconceptions surrounding alcohol-related laws in Texas. The last thing you want is to be facing criminal charges and fines because you didn’t know the law. However, you’ve come to the right place if you want to get the knowledge which every Texan driver should have. If you need specific advice, you should contact a DWI lawyer in Houston.
Ask a Houston DWI Lawyer: When Can I Be Cited for Open Container Violation?
It helps to start with the basics. In Texas, an open container refers to any unsealed can, bottle, flask or any other vessel used to hold alcohol. This means an open beer bottle counts as an open container but a sealed bottle of vodka doesn’t. You can only be charged with a crime if the open container is in the passenger area of the vehicle.
It needs to be visible and reasonably within your reach. The container could, therefore, be in the cupholder, passenger seat, or backseat. If the container is locked in the glove compartment or in the trunk, it is not reasonably within your reach. The law applies even if you have stopped your vehicle or parked it on or next to a public road.
There is an important aspect of the law which many people are not aware of. Passengers in Houston and elsewhere in Texas shouldn’t drink alcohol while in a moving vehicle. They also shouldn’t be in possession of an open container. Both the passenger and driver can be cited even if it’s only the passenger in possession of the container.
Exceptions to the Texas Open Container Law Explained by a DWI Attorney in Houston
If you think the law seems really strict, you’ll be happy to know there are some exceptions. If you are a passenger in a taxi, train, bus or limo, you may be exempt. You may also be exempt if you are in a motorhome, self-contained trailer or recreational vehicle. Individuals can usually have open containers in the living area of these vehicles. However, you should remember that driving while intoxicated is still a crime. Also, if you commit a crime while in possession of an open container, it could make things worse.
Penalties for Open Container Violations in Texas
You may be wondering if an open container violation is that big of a deal. It is not the same as DWI and it is usually just a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. Once your blood alcohol concentration must be under .08 and you aren’t carrying out any other crimes, you will be given a ticket and fine. The fine is usually no more than $500.
However, the penalty could be more severe if:
· You are found in violation of probation for a DWI
· You have suffered a license suspension following a previous DWI.
Class C misdemeanors are minor, but they are not completely harmless. Having any conviction on your record can jeopardize your chance of getting a job, getting into college or getting financial aid. It can also put your professional license at risk.
If you are caught actually drinking and driving, you are likely to face more serious charges. In such a case, the open container laws are the least of your concerns. For a first DWI, you face jail time of between 3 and 180 days. You can lose your driver’s license for as long as a year. Also, you will later have to pay a yearly fee of between $1,000 to $3,000 to retain your license. First-time DWI offenders also face a fine of up to $2,000.
Contact a DWI Lawyer in Houston Today!
If you believe you have been wrongfully accused of violating Texas’ open container law, you need an attorney. If you committed another crime at the time of your violation, you should also seek legal help. At Eddington and Worley, we may be able to successfully defend you. There are a number of defenses to an open container citation including an unlawful search and an illegal traffic stop. If you’ve been charged with a DWI, there are also a number of procedures we can challenge. If you want the best possible outcome, don’t just hand your case over to anyone. Consult the experienced attorneys at Eddington and Worley today.