When it comes to drunk driving, the fact someone is a police officer will not necessarily help them avoid an arrest. The Laredo Morning Times recently reported on the arrest of a local officer charged with DWI and open container violations.
According to an affidavit reviewed by the Times, the officer was arrested on July 5, 2020, after a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper noticed the officer “could not maintain his vehicle in a single lane.” The trooper initiated a traffic stop and described the officer as having “glossy eyes and slurred speech,” both of which are considered “physical signs of intoxication.”
The trooper proceeded to question the officer, asking him if he had been drinking and if there was any alcohol in his vehicle. The officer answered no to both questions. And while the officer declined to take a field sobriety test, he did consent to the trooper searching his vehicle for any “open containers.”
The trooper said he found “a stainless steel cup behind the front passenger seat pocket that contained liquor.” This prompted the trooper to request a Breathalyzer test.
When the officer refused, he was placed under arrest.
He currently faces Class B misdemeanor DWI charges, which under Texas law carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.
The Times noted the officer also faces an “internal investigation” from the Laredo Police Department.
Anything Can Be Considered an “Open Container”
One thing to note from this story is that an open container violation can refer to any receptacle that contains alcohol. It does not have to be a can or bottle that is clearly labeled as alcohol. What matters is that it is a container with some type of alcohol, and that it is found in the “passenger area” of the vehicle.
Again, this does not necessarily mean the driver’s-side seat. In the story above, the open receptacle was found in the adjoining passenger seat. This is still considered well within the “passenger area” of a vehicle.
The only parts of a moving vehicle that are not considered part of the passenger area are the glove compartment, a locked storage container, or the trunk. In vehicles without a trunk, it is also acceptable to keep open containers in the “area behind the last upright seat of the vehicle.” But an open container found anywhere else can lead to criminal charges.
Facing DWI Charges related to an Open Container?
Speak with a Criminal Justice Lawyer Today
Remember, if police pull you over on a traffic stop, you do not have to answer any questions about where you’ve been or where you’re going. You certainly do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle for open containers. If the police have probable cause to suspect you did something illegal, they can get a warrant.
And if you are charged with a DWI or open container violation, you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City today if you need to speak with a lawyer right away.