Most people know that driving drunk is dangerous and against the law in Texas. However, some people may not realize that in certain areas it is a crime to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, even if no one is drunk or drinking.
What Is the Open Container Law?
This law makes it a criminal offense to have an unsealed or opened quantity of alcohol in a vehicle in any place other than the trunk, a locked glove compartment or behind the last upright seat in vehicles with no trunks. For example, having an open beer or a bottle of liquor with the cap unscrewed in the rear passenger seat is a crime in Houston.
Also, a driver and a passenger may both be cited for violating this law if the passenger has an opened alcoholic beverage, even if neither of them were consuming alcohol in the car. This charge can also be applied if the car is stopped or parked anywhere near or on a public road.
Alcoholic Beverages Penalties
This crime is a Class C misdemeanor in Houston. It is a relatively minor offense but repeat offenses can warrant enhanced penalties. Also, violating this law can enhance the penalties for a DWI charge. According to the Texas Penal Code, penalties include:
- A fine of up $500
- If alcohol is discovered in a car in a DWI arrest, mandatory jail time increase from a minimum 72 hours to a minimum six days
Defending against this charge can be slightly difficult in Texas. This is because the court makes no distinction of ownership in this offense. This means that even if the driver and passenger had no idea that there was alcohol with a broken seal in the car, they can still both be cited and fined.
A defense lawyer may be able to convince a judge to allow the defendant to complete alcohol awareness classes in return for deferred adjudication plus a fine. If the defendant successfully completes all the adjudication requirements, his record may be expunged and it will be as if the charge was never filed.