Texas is well-known for having some of the strictest laws in the nation when it comes to driving while under the influence. For instance, those who have an open container of alcohol in their vehicle, even if they haven’t been drinking, could face misdemeanor charges. This is true even if nothing has been consumed from the bottle. There are, however, some exceptions to this law, as well as some strong defenses that defendants can use to avoid conviction, so if you were recently accused of driving with an open container, it is important to consult with an experienced Houston open container violation lawyer to discuss the matter.
Under Texas law, a person has committed an open container violation if he or she knowingly possesses an open container in a passenger area of a vehicle that is also located on a public highway. While it doesn’t matter, for conviction purposes, whether a vehicle is being operated or is parked at the time that the citation is issued, prosecutors must be able to prove that:
- The receptacle found in the vehicle qualifies as an open container, meaning that its seal was broken and it contained an alcoholic beverage;
- The container was in the passenger area of the defendant’s vehicle; and
- The vehicle was on a public road.
Defendants who can demonstrate that any one of these elements has not been fulfilled could avoid being unfairly convicted of an open container violation.
Exceptions to an Open Container Offense
There are a number of exceptions to the rule regarding open containers. Under these exceptions, it is not a criminal offense to possess an open container if:
- The container in question was found in a vehicle that was designed or used primarily as a service to transport people in return for compensation and the accused was a customer; or
- The open container was found in the living quarters of a camper, recreational vehicle, or motorhome.
Fortunately, even if neither of these exceptions applies in a particular case, a person is not out of luck, but can raise a number of different defenses.
Open Container Defenses
There are many defenses that a defendant can raise after receiving an open alcohol container citation, including:
- Insufficient cause for the initial traffic stop that led to the violation;
- A lack of adequate legal cause to conduct a search of the vehicle;
- The vehicle’s primary use as a rideshare service;
- The vehicle’s use as a motorhome or camper;
- The container was located in a non-passenger area, such as the bed of a truck or the glovebox; and
- The seal on the container was not broken.
To learn more about the possible defenses that could help you avoid conviction for an open container citation, please call our office today.
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If you are facing an open container charge or have been accused of another DWI offense, please reach out to the dedicated Houston open container violation lawyers at The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates for advice. Call us today at 281-962-7817 to schedule an initial consultation.