A drunk driving arrest can easily lead to felony criminal charges in Texas, particularly if you have prior DWI convictions or there is evidence of an open container violation.
For example, law enforcement in the north Texas community of Mount Vernon recently charged a 40-year-old woman with felony DWI following an incident on I-30. According to KSST radio, the suspect “nearly” hit a tractor-trailer on the interstate. A Department of Public Safety trooper subsequently stopped the suspect, who admitted she was driving with a suspended license (the result of her prior DWI arrests).
The trooper said he observed “clues of intoxication” from the suspect. The trooper then performed field sobriety tests to confirm his suspicion. This lead to the suspect’s arrest.
As it turned out, the suspect had five prior arrests–and two prior convictions–for DWI. The prior convictions are critical, as what would be a Class B misdemeanor for a first offense is now a third-degree felony. This means that if convicted, the suspect potentially faces up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
To make matters worse for the suspect, when police impounded her vehicle following this most recent arrest, they reportedly found “two open Dallas Blonde alcoholic beverages in the console; one was empty and the other still has a small amount of liquid in it,” suggesting some of the alcohol had “recently spilled in the console.”
Understanding the Penalties for Texas Open Container Violations
Even if you are facing a first-time arrest for DWI, the presence of an open container in your vehicle can still lead to elevated charges. Under Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code, it is a Class B misdemeanor if prosecutors can prove there was an “an open container of alcohol” in your “immediate possession” at the time of your arrest. In this context, an “open container” can refer to any can, bottle, or similar receptacle that contains “any amount of alcoholic beverage” and is not sealed.
Although a first offense for Driving While Intoxicated is normally classified as a Class B misdemeanor without an open container, the presence of an open container can lead to enhanced penalties.
Section 49.04 states that a first-time DWI conviction normally results in a minimum jail term of 72 hours (or 3 days). But if there was an open container, that minimum term is doubled to six days.
Also note that even if you are not arrested for DWI, police can still cite you for a Class C misdemeanor if an officer spots an open bottle of alcohol in your vehicle.
Speak with a Licensed Texas Lawyer Today
Open container violations are not offenses to be taken lightly. Indeed, if you were arrested and charged with any type of DWI or alcohol-related offense, you should speak with a qualified Houston criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you live in the Houston, Galveston, or League City areas and need immediate assistance.