Driving with an open container of alcohol in your car or truck in Texas is against the law. Even if the driver has not been drinking and is totally sober, simply having a bottle or can of alcohol in the passenger area can lead to misdemeanor charges and a criminal record.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) with an open container can result in increased penalties over just a DWI alone. A DWI with an open container carries an increased minimum jail time of 6 days confinement.
If you were charged with a DWI with an open container violation in Odessa, Texas, talk to an experienced Odessa criminal defense lawyer to understand your rights.
Texas Open Container Laws
Under Texas Penal Code § 49.031, a person commits the offense of possession of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle if the person knowingly possesses an open container in a passenger area of a motor vehicle that is located on a public highway. This includes vehicles that are stopped or parked.
An “open container” includes a bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains any amount of alcoholic beverage that is open, has been opened, has a broken seal, or the contents of which have partially been removed.
Penalties in Texas for Driving With an Open Container of Alcohol
Possession of an open container in a vehicle is a Class C misdemeanor. The penalties for a Class C misdemeanor conviction include a fine of up to $500. There is no jail time associated with a Class C misdemeanor.
DWI with an Open Container in Texas
A DWI with an open container is an enhancement when it comes to sentencing. Under Texas Penal Code § 49.04, the minimum confinement for a first-offense DWI is 72 hours (3 days). However, if the driver was operating the vehicle with an open container in the person's possession, there is a minimum term of confinement of 6 days.
Exceptions and Defenses to Texas Open Container Laws
There are exceptions and defenses to driving with an open container in Texas. The “passenger area of a motor vehicle” does not apply to a locked glove compartment, the trunk, or area behind the last upright seat of the vehicle if the vehicle doesn't have a trunk.
For example, after a party at a friends house, the host asks one guest to take home the opened bottles of wine. The guest puts the bottles in the back of their SUV. This may not be considered an open container if the bottles are behind the last upright seat of the vehicle because the SUV does not have a trunk.
There are also exceptions to the open container law for certain types of vehicles. Specifically, it is an exception to the charge if the defendant was a passenger in:
- The passenger area of a vehicle used primarily for the transportation for compensation, such as a taxi, bus, or limousine; or
- The living quarters of a motorized house coach, such as a camper, motor home, or recreational vehicle.
Odessa Criminal Alcohol Offense Lawyer
An open container violation may not seem serious but it can still result in a criminal record. A DWI with an open container can also result in a mandatory 6 days in jail. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands how to build a strong defense that gives you the best shot at a favorable outcome, including getting charges reduced or dropped. If you've been accused of criminal theft in Odessa, Texas, the Law Office of E. Jason Leach, PLLC is here to fight for you. To set up a free consultation contact the Law Office of E. Jason Leach today at (432) 552-7000.