Not long ago, you could take a road trip to Austin, TX, driving with one hand on the steering wheel and holding your cold beer with the other. However, in 2001, Texas adopted one of the strictest laws that make it illegal to have an open container of alcohol within all the vehicle occupants. You don’t need to have alcohol content in your system; you can be charged with an alcohol-related offense even when others are the one holding an open container. The law is termed as open container law. Unfortunately, many people who have been charged with Driving When intoxicated (DWI) don’t understand how the law works or how it can affect their DWI case.
There are many dimensions of open container law that you must to be aware of if accused of a violation. This article covers most of what you’ll need to know, but shouldn’t be construed as legal advice. For legal advice, contact The Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski or one of the many other qualified criminal defense attorneys in Austin, TX.
DWI Offenses in Austin, Texas
Penalties that are associated with DWI conviction are severe; Texas is particularly strict when it comes to prosecuting alleged drunk drivers due to the recent increase of accidents. You may find yourself faced with hefty fines, jail times or costly court costs. Other consequences include license suspension, higher insurance rate and penalties assessed by the department of transportation. A DWI case can be expensive, and its repercussion can last for years, so any arrest for DWI must be taken seriously. However, as noted you don’t need to be drunk to be arrested or charged with class C misdemeanor. Possessing an open container of alcohol when driving is considered a class C misdemeanor and punishable by $500. Sometimes an open container violation coupled with a DWI charge and having it can be an aggravating factor in your DWI case.
Open Container Violations
Open containers violation is basically any receptacle holding of alcohol showing signs of utilization. So, is the top of the bear is open or has been taken off the container, or the seal of the containers has been tampered with, or liquid seems to be removed from the container, then you can be charged with open container violation.
Texas open container laws forbid possession in the passenger area of the vehicle as long as the vehicle is located on the public highway, whether the vehicle is parked, stopped or packed.
The passenger area is the areas designed both for the passenger and the driver. It does not include:
- A glove compartment
- The truck of the car
- The space just behind the last seat of your car.
For you to be accused and to be guilty of the open container offense, you must be aware of possession of an open alcohol container in your vehicle.
Open Container Plus DWI Charges
The Penalty for the first time DWI conviction when with open alcohol containers are pretty much the same as the first time conviction and don’t have aggravating conditions. Both offenses are considered class B misdemeanor; the difference is that the minimum jail time will be six days and not 72 hours. However, that’s not all; Open container violation can have other effects on your DWI case. First, it strengthens the prosecution claim that you were drinking shortly before driving. Second, because of the aggravating circumstance, the court can choose a high end of the punishment, which generally hurts you.
Having lawyer beside you when accused of DWI and open container violation increases your chances of fighting your case. The DWI lawyer may be able to contest a DWI charge based on the procedure taken by the officers who searched your vehicle or other factors. Either way, an experienced lawyer can ensure you have the most optimal results possible.