Many people find themselves facing DWI- related charges because they simply do not understand how the laws work. Open container laws are a fine example of this predicament. In the State of Texas, it is illegal to possess an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle – but the application of this law can be confusing. Better understanding open container laws can help ensure you do not find yourself on the wrong side of such a charge.
What Constitutes an Open Container?
In the eyes of the law, an open container refers to an open bottle, can, or any other receptacle that contains any alcoholic beverage. In this meaning, open can also mean having the container's seal broken or having some of the liquid removed from the container in question. The container itself can be a bottle, can, flask, glass, travel mug, plastic bottle, Styrofoam cup, or any other container that can hold liquid.
When Is Possession of an Open Container Prohibited?
In Texas, it is illegal to have an open container – as described above – in the passenger area of your vehicle whenever you are on a public highway, but public highway here means all of the following:
- A public street
- A road
- An interstate
- A highway
- Any public area in which motor vehicles are allowed to travel
Further, it does not matter what you are doing on that roadway – whether you are driving, are stopped, or are parked at the time – it remains illegal to be in possession of an open container.
Finally, the passenger area of your vehicle refers to that space wherein the driver and other passengers sit but does not include the following areas:
- A locked compartment such as a glove box
- Your car’s trunk
- The space behind the last upright seat in your vehicle (if there is no truck space)
In other words, if you have anything that qualifies as an open container in your vehicle, it must be kept somewhere inaccessible.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are some situations in which passengers in the State of Texas are not prohibited from possessing open containers, including:
- If the vehicle in which the passenger rides is transportation for hire, such as buses, limousines, and taxis)
- If the passenger is in the living quarters of a motorhome or another type of self-contained recreational vehicle
If you are facing DWI charges, the fact of open container charges ups the ante, and if you are convicted, possession of that open container will very likely increase your penalties. The open container charge itself is a Class C misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $500.
It Is Time to Contact an Experienced Lawyer
If you are facing open container charges – whether alone or in conjunction with a DWI – Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a formidable criminal defense lawyer with an impressive record of helping clients like you favorably resolve their DWI cases. Your case is important, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.