What Should I Know About the Open Container Law in Texas?

Anyone in Texas who is facing open container charges needs to take the charges extremely seriously, regardless of whether or not the charges accompany a DWI arrest. To be sure, even an open container violation on its own—regardless of whether you have been accused of drunk driving—can result in you having a criminal record in addition to other potential social and professional consequences. To be clear, open container violations are considered very serious under the Texas Penal Code, and you should begin working with an experienced Texas DWI defense lawyer as soon as possible to avoid having a criminal conviction on your record.

Defining an “Open Container” in Texas

What is an open container, or an open container violation? While the term itself might seem quite broad, it refers to possession of an alcoholic beverage in your motor vehicle, according to Texas law. The Texas Penal Code expressly defines an open container as a “bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains any amount of alcoholic beverage and that is open, that has been opened, that has a broken seal, or the contents of which are partially removed.”

Under the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with an open container violation if that person “knowingly possesses an open container in a passenger area of a motor vehicle that is located on a public highway, regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is stopped and parked.” A passenger area includes “the area of a motor vehicle designed for the seating of the operator and passengers of the vehicle,” and does not include a glove compartment, trunk, or area behind the upright seats of the vehicle in vehicles without a trunk space. Accordingly, you should not face open container charges for having an open container in your trunk, for example. 

Open Container Can Be Charged With or Without DWI Charges

You should know that you can face open container charges with or without accompanying charges for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas. To be sure, an open container violation can accompany DWI charges in or around Houston, but you can also face stand-alone open container charges if you are stopped for any lawful reason and you are in possession of an open container within the passenger area of your motor vehicle.

To be clear, even if you have not consumed any alcohol, you can face open container charges in Texas. Open container charges that do not accompany DWI charges will typically be Class C misdemeanor charges, which will result in a criminal record if you are convicted.  

Open Container Can Result in Enhanced Penalties for DWI Charges in Texas

When open container charges accompany DWI charges, the DWI penalty can be increased. You can face additional jail time if you are convicted.

Seek Advice from a Texas DWI Defense Attorney

If you are facing open container charges, whether as individual charges or as open container with DWI, you should work with one of our experienced Texas DWI defense attorneys to fight the charges you are facing. Contact The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates to learn more about how we can assist with your defense.