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The Consequences of Having Alcohol in a Car in Texas

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense in the state of Texas. However, DWI is not the only alcohol-related offense that exists under Texas law. The general public often does not realize that in Texas, and many other states, not only is illegal to drive with a certain blood alcohol content (BAC), but it is illegal to knowingly have an open container of alcohol in any vehicle, regardless of who is driving the vehicle or whether the vehicle is moving or not. Essentially, you can’t have an open alcoholic beverage in any container when you are in a vehicle, no matter what the circumstances may be. Plus, if you are charged under Texas’s open container law, you may very well also be charged with DWI, depending on the situation, which can result in very severe consequences.

Defining an Open Container Under Texas Law

Texas Penal Code § 49.031 defines an open container as any bottle, can, or anything that holds a liquid that contains any amount of an alcoholic beverage and that is open or has been opened. Even a bottle with a broken seal counts as an open container for the purposes of this law. It also doesn’t matter if you have been drinking from the container or not – if it’s open, you can be charged with this offense. Additionally, the open container is prohibited from being in the seating area of the vehicle, whether it is in the driver’s seat, the passenger seat, or the back seat. The only way that you can transport an open container is in a locked glove compartment or the trunk of the vehicle. It is irrelevant whether the vehicle is moving or not.

Defining a Vehicle Under Texas Law

The term “motor vehicle” generally refers to automobiles and trucks under Texas law. There are some exceptions to the open container law. Specifically, it is not a violation of Texas’s open container law to possess an open container in passenger area of a bus, taxicab, limousine, or other vehicle used to transport persons in exchange for compensation. Likewise, Texas law provides an exception for open containers of alcohol that are located in the living quarters of a motorized house trailer, camper, or motorhome, or a recreational vehicle.

Consequences of an Open Container Charge

Under Texas law, violation of the open container law is a criminal offense. This crime is classified as a Class C misdemeanor. While an open container offense on its own may simply result in a citation and fine of $500, when combined with another offense, such as DWI, you could be looking at increased penalties, including more jail time.

Contact Tad Nelson & Associates Today

If you are facing an open container charge along with other alcohol-related offenses, you will need an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney to protect your interests and minimize the penalties that you may face. Don’t go it alone – contact The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at (281) 280-0100 and schedule an appointment to meet with the criminal defense lawyers who are here to help you.