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Texas Drinking Laws: Open Containers of Alcohol

Posted by Douglas Wilder | Jan 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

The laws concerning open containers of alcohol while driving.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a very serious alcohol-related charge that can have a great effect on your record and your lifestyle. This is why it is considered such a serious crime, typically resulting in harsh punishments such as fines, state-ordered alcohol classes, and possibly even jail time. However, a DWI is not the only severe drinking-related crime that police officers are on the watch for.


Many people do not often realize that in many states, including Texas, open container laws make it completely illegal for anyone who is in a vehicle―regardless of who is driving and whether or not the car is moving―to have an open container of alcohol in the car. Even if you are not consuming the open beverage, you can still possibly be fined for an open container if pulled over.

What is so significant about this law is that, when an open container charge is combined with a DWI, it can result in many serious penalties. Some of these may even include higher insurance, loss of coverage, vehicle impoundment and even possible jail time.

So, how can you ensure that you are not pulled over and fined for an open container? The first step is to understand what exactly is qualified under this charge, then understand how you can avoid it.

What Is An “Open Container?”

Under Texas state law, an “open container” is defined as a bottle, can, or other liquid-holding device that contains any amount of alcoholic beverage and that is open, has been open, or has a broken seal, or the contents of which are partially removed. Whether the container contains wine, liquor or beer, it makes no difference. If it isn't sealed, even if you haven't been drinking it, it is an open container.

When Can You Be Fined For An Open Container?

Texas state law prohibits any open alcohol containers in any seating area of a vehicle―driver's side, passenger side or back seat. Therefore, in order to ensure that you do not get fined for an open container, all opened alcoholic beverages must be placed in a secure location, such as a locked glove compartment, the vehicle's truck, or behind the last seat of the vehicle if there is no trunk.

Also, your car does not have to be moving in order for you to get fined for an open container of alcohol. Even if you are stopped in a parking lot or driveway, it is illegal for you to have an open container of alcohol inside of the vehicle.

What Are The Penalties For An Open Container?

The penalties for breaking the open container law varies from state to state and depend on the circumstances surrounding the charge. However, it is still important that you contact an experienced DWI lawyer if you have been charged with violating the state's open container laws and driving while intoxicated.

Having an experienced lawyer on your side can not only help to increase your chances of fighting your case, but they will also ensure that you receive the most optimal results possible.

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About the Author

Douglas Wilder

Douglas Wilder is a graduate of Texas A&M University (Class of 1989), where he was recognized by the College of Engineering as a Distinguished Student. Doug's first job as he worked his way through law school was with a prominent criminal defense attorney in Houston.  There he gained valuable trial, motion and brief writing experience. During the summer after his second year of law school, Doug conducted Court hearings on a law student bar card while employed by the Denver County District Attorney's office in Colorado. Doug spent his final year of law school working for the Harris County District Attorney's in Houston, where he tried cases for the District Attorney. Upon graduating from South Texas College of Law, Doug worked for Vinson & Elkins, LLP in Houston and was assigned to a multi-billion dollar national lawsuit, which sent Doug all over the country. Making contacts in Washington, D.C, he then went to work for the Ambassador of Ecuador in Washington, D.C. as his legal liaison.  Doug assisted the Ambassador in all legal matters and international lawsuits affecting the Embassy and Ecuador. Even though Doug was offered the opportunity to work for the Ambassadors' international law firm in Ecuador, his passion for criminal trials brought him back to Texas where he began prosecuting for the Denton County District Attorney's office in 1995. Doug quickly became a Chief Prosecutor and had an excellent conviction rate. He earned a reputation for aggressively prosecuting the cases that were difficult to win, which he did with great success. Doug also took an active role in training police officers how to investigate, collect and preserve evidence concerning DWIs, and how to effectively testify in Court.  Doug's excellent trial skills enabled him to train other prosecutors to become more effective trial lawyers. In January 1999, Doug was hired by the Dallas County District Attorney's office, where he continued to have an excellent conviction rate. Doug tried a case against nationally known Houston attorney, Gary Trichter, who was assisted by a nationally known jury consultant, Robert Hirschhorn, along with three other well-known lawyers. After several days in a hotly contested trial, the jury chose to convict. Doug's natural trial ability and aggressive demeanor contributed to his continued success in the Courtroom. After obtaining a conviction against a prominent defense attorney who brags of never losing, Doug was courted by him and joined his boutique firm in January 2000. Within two months, Doug's aggressive trial style enabled him to get his first felony not guilty verdict from a jury for his client facing life in prison for the offense of a direct delivery of a controlled substance to an undercover officer in a crack house. The Judge was so impressed that she put Doug on her Court Appointment list. Doug is known for successfully trying cases that are very difficult to win. After many of Doug's jury trials, his peers often ask “how did you win that case?” to which he simply replies “you just had to be there.” After one specific DWI Not Guilty, the Judge, in talking to Doug's client about the verdict, described Doug's performance as “magic.” It is also common for jurors to ask Doug for his business card, even those potential jurors who sat through the selection process but were not picked. Doug started his own firm in 2002, growing his practice one client at a time.  He has been trained and qualified as a Practitioner and Instructor in Standardized Field Sobriety testing. He knows what the police know, and then some. He has received formal Drug Recognition Expert training, and has been extensively trained on the Intoxilyzer 5000, the Breathalyzer used by the police. He devotes himself to each client, realizing that anything less than his best efforts is unacceptable. Doug hates to lose in trial and knows how much his clients depend on him to keep their lives intact. His excellent abilities were honored when D Magazine named him one of the Best Lawyers under 40 in Dallas in 2004. Texas Monthly named Doug a Rising Star Super Lawyer in 2004, 2005, and 2006. His continued success is attributed to his “must win” attitude and work ethic. Doug is a member of the State Bar of Texas, National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Dallas Bar Association, Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the National College for DUI Defense. He has a beautiful wife with whom he runs marathons, and they have two wonderful children, Bryanna and Aidan


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