How The Open Container Law Works In The State Of Texas
Are you planning a road trip or vacation soon? You may want to research the Texas open container law before you head out. Despite all of the money that is spent by the state on ad campaigns and anti-DWI initiatives, they don’t use nearly as many resources on informing individuals on how the DWI and open containers laws actually work in Texas.
This has resulted in numerous Texans finding themselves mistakenly breaking laws due to not really understanding how these laws work, to begin with. There are many myths about drunk driving out there, and a perfect example of that is the Texas open container law.
The Texas open container laws have more dimensions to them than some people might think they do. Things that you don’t know or understand can result in some very costly criminal charges. Before heading out this weekend, get the entire story on the Texas open container law and be aware of all of the facts that all Texan drivers need to know.
The History of the Open Container Law in Texas
The history of Texas’ open container law is actually fairly straightforward. However, all of the changes surrounding expungement, DWI, and open containers make it hard to stay current on all of the nuances related to the laws. Today’s open container law was first passed in 2001. The Texas open container law was a significant aspect of the state of Texas becoming stricter on driving and drinking.
What Texas Considers to be an Open Container
In order to understand the open container laws in Texas, it is very important to know what is considered to be an “open container.” An open container in Texas refers to any unsealed flask, can, bottle, or other device used for holding alcohol. For instance, an open can of beer or half a bottle of vodka is considered to be an open container of alcohol. By contrast, a bottle of booze that was fully sealed would not be.
An open container of alcohol only becomes a crime if it is located in a motor vehicle’s “passenger area.” What that means is that the open container would have to be visible as well as within reasonable reach of the driver’s seat (in the back seat rolling around, on the passenger seat, in a cup holder, etc.).
An open container isn’t technically considered to be within the “passenger area” if:
- In the area that is located behind an upright seat (if there is no trunk in your vehicle)
- In your vehicle’s trunk
- In your glove compartment or other locked storage area inside your vehicle
- Another important aspect of this law is that it applies whether you are stopped, moving, parked in, or right next to any public road.
Texas Open Container Laws and Passengers
Were you aware that the Texas open container law also applies to passengers? So, if a friend of yours is hassling you about bringing along a roadie as a rider, he isn’t simply trying to be mean. Technically the open container is within the “passenger area,” and both the vehicle’s driver and passenger who has the alcohol can be charged for possession of an open container, even when the driver is 100% sober.
Exceptions To The Open Container Law in Texas
There are some exceptions to the open container law in Texas for a couple of reasonable situations. For instance, if you are a passenger in a limo, train, bus, or taxi, you might be able to able to claim an exception from the open container law in Texas.
If you have a motorhome, self-contained trailer, or recreational vehicle (RV) you might meet other exceptions to the open container law in Texas. Open containers inside the living quarters of those vehicles are usually considered to violate the law. Remember that each situation is different and may drastically change if in the process you committed other crimes.
Texas Open Container Penalties
Possessing an open container in Texas is a Class C Misdemeanor – or a traffic ticket, in other words. If your blood alcohol concentration is under .08 and you haven’t committed any other crimes as part of the process, you and/or your friends will be issued a fine and ticket. In Texas, the open container fine is a maximum of $500.
A violation of the open container law isn’t the same thing as a DWI. That means that the Texas open container law doesn’t place you at risk of immediate arrest or time in jail as long as you are actually sober when the traffic stop occurs. However, an open container charge can become a lot more serious if it is discovered that you are in violation of DWI probation or have a DWI license suspension in the state of Texas from a prior DWI.
Another thing that you need to be aware of is if you are caught drinking and driving, then the last thing you will need to worry about is an open container misdemeanor. If you are caught drinking and driving it most likely will result in more serious charges, which can include a DWI charge.
Keep in mind that a Class C Misdemeanor might not be harmless. Getting a misdemeanor from the open container law in the state of Texas can affect financial aid and college admissions for students, potentially licensure and employment for professionals, and higher insurance costs as well.
Defenses Against Open Laws in Texas
Aside from the exceptions to the open container law, there are a number of defenses that are available in Texas against the open container law. If you are subjected to an unlawful search or an illegal traffic stop by a police officer a skilled attorney might be able to help you successfully defend these charges.
Even what appears to be a simple open container charge may be made unjustly or used as a form of illegitimate evidence for a phony DWI charge. So if you or a loved one is facing a DWI charge in the state of Texas, don’t entrust your case to a second-rate defense or let time run out. Instead, hire Jim Butler, the premier DWI lawyer in Houston, today.