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Enhanced DWIs in Texas: Open Container Laws

Updated: Feb 10, 2023 @ 11:54 pm

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Driving with an open container is almost as bad as blowing a BAC of .08 or greater, and if you blow a .08 or greater and have an open container in the vehicle, your DWI just went from bad to worse. If you were charged with an enhanced DWI in Texas, you may find it difficult to come up with a defense. After all, the police basically just caught you red handed.

If that is the case, contact the Houston DWI attorneys at The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates to start building your defense immediately. If you simply want to know what the open container laws are in the Lone Star State so that you can avoid accidentally committing a crime, keep reading.

What is an “Open Container” in Texas?

Texas open container laws are pretty straightforward, and what constitutes an “open container” is detailed clearly in the Texas Penal Code, Section 49.01. According to the code, an open container refers to any unsealed bottle, flask, can, or other device used to hold alcohol. For instance, a half empty beer bottle in the center counsel would be considered an open container. A full, sealed vodka bottle in the back in a grocery bag, on the other hand, would not.

In order for a container to be considered “open,” and in order for an open contain offense to be considered a crime, it must be in the passenger area of the vehicle. This means that it must be in any section of the vehicle in which there is seating. Under Texas law, an open container is not considered as such if it is:

  • In the glove compartment or other locked area of the vehicle;
  • In the area behind your upright seat (if your vehicle does not have trunk space); or
  • In the trunk of your vehicle.

Additionally, open container laws apply to passengers of a vehicle. For instance, if you are driving a friend around who has an open container in the back, you may be charged with an enhanced DWI. Also, the open container law applies whether you are parked, stopped, or moving.

Open Container Penalties in Texas

Assuming that driving with an open container is the only crime you have committed, you will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which is essentially a traffic ticket. You may be issued a fine of no more than $500 and be sent on your merry way. However, if you are charged with a DWI and an open container enhancement, the penalties may be much worse.

If you are pulled over and blow a BAC of .08 or over, and if the arresting officers find an open container in your vehicle, you may be guilty of a felony DWI, which may be punishable by fines and jail time. A standard open container charge may not be reason enough to call a Houston DWI attorney, but an enhanced DWI is.

Retain the Help of a Houston DWI Lawyer

If you were caught with an open container in your vehicle and blew a BAC of .08 or higher, you risk jail time, hefty fines, and possible license suspension.

The Houston DWI attorneys at The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates can help fight the charges and either have them reduced or dropped entirely. Do not let an open container ruin your future, and call our law offices to start building your defense today.

Houston DWI Lawyer Tad A Nelson is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the TBLS.

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