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.