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What an Open Container Enhancement Means for Your DWI Cases

Updated: Feb 11, 2023 @ 10:30 pm

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The state of Texas has fairly strict laws when it comes to driving while drinking or while under the influence of drugs. Over the past several years, the state has cracked down on drivers who violate those laws, resulting in large fines and even jail time for violators. There are a few things, called enhancements, that can result in even larger penalties than what a driving while intoxicated offense would normally yield.

What are Enhancements?

Drunk driving isn’t just about the alcohol content in your system.

Texas defines driving while intoxicated while in possession of an open container a separate criminal offense. An open container violation in itself is a misdemeanor traffic violation, but combined with a DWI, the penalties become more severe. In addition to an open container enhancement, the following are also enhancements that can result in more severe penalties:

  • Blood alcohol content over 0.15 for first-time offenders;
  • A person was injured due to intoxication assault;
  • A public servant received injuries as a result of a DWI accident; and
  • Multiple DWI convictions from any state.

What is an Open Container?

In Texas, any unsealed bottle, flask, can, or other device that holds alcohol can be considered an open container. A bottle that is unopened and/or sealed would not be considered an open container. In order for an open container to be a crime, it must be found in the passenger area of the vehicle, meaning it must be visible and within reach of the driver’s seat. An open container may not be considered as such if it is not in the passenger area. Places not considered part of the passenger area include:

  • The trunk of your vehicle;
  • The area behind your upright seat; and
  • The glove compartment or other locked storage area inside the vehicle.

Another important aspect of the open container law that we should all understand is that the law applies whether your vehicle is stopped or moving and parked on, in, or immediately next to a public road.

What Constitutes a DWI?

Like most other states, Texas uses a person’s blood alcohol content, or BAC, to determine if a person has been drinking too much to operate their vehicle. Understand that multiple things, like your body weight and even your gender, can affect your BAC. Not everyone can drink the same number of drinks and have the same BAC. The following are the state’s BAC limits:

  • 0.08% for those 21 years old and older;
  • 0.04% for commercial drivers; and
  • Any detectable amount for drivers under the age of 21.

Penalties for DWI with Open Container Enhancement

Provided that it is your first driving while intoxicated offense, a typical DWI offense is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor with a minimum confinement term of 72 hours. However, if the driver who is receiving the DWI also has possession of an open container, the offense will be subject to an enhanced punishment. This means that the minimum confinement term increases to six days in jail.

Consult with an Experienced DWI Attorney in Galveston and League City

The laws surrounding DWI and open container enhancements can be complex and confusing, but there is good news. If you have been charged with a DWI with open container enhancements, there may be ways to reduce or even dismiss your charges.

A knowledgeable Houston criminal defense attorney will be able to discuss your case with you and determine the best possible defense for your situation. Consult with an experienced defense attorney at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston today to learn more about your legal options and to secure legal representation.

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

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