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Open Container Laws

Open Container Laws in Texas

What are the open container laws in Texas?

Open container laws in Texas refer to statutes prohibiting the possession of open containers of alcohol in certain areas, most commonly within motor vehicles. An open container violation can be confirmed if the individual has an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle, the vehicle is located on a public highway, and the vehicle is in operation or the person is in physical control of the vehicle.

Implications of Open Container Laws

The open container laws have direct implications for drivers and passengers. For drivers, having an open container in the vehicle could be suggestive of drinking and driving, even if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit. Passengers, while they are not in control of the vehicle, can still be charged if an open container is in their possession.

What is an Open Container?

Texas considers an open container to be a bottle, can, or other receptacle containing any amount of alcoholic beverage that is open, has a broken seal, or the contents of the container are partially removed.

Corked bottles of wine and half-empty bottles of liquor would be considered open containers in Texas. Additionally, flasks or cups with lids, such as Yeti cups containing alcohol, would be considered open containers.

OPEN CONTAINER ENHANCEMENT FOR DWIS IN TEXAS

In Texas, the presence of an open container can significantly influence Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charges. If a person is arrested for a DWI and has an open container in their vehicle, this could result in enhanced penalties, including an increased minimum jail sentence. Keep in mind, an officer is not required to add the enhancement, even if an open container was found in the vehicle. If an open container enhancement is added to a Driving While Intoxicated charge, it will increase the minimum time in jail from three to six days on a Class B misdemeanor.

MUNICIPAL LAWS ON OPEN CONTAINERS IN TEXAS

Aside from statewide laws, municipalities may enact their own laws regarding open containers in public areas. Some cities, for instance, might permit open containers in designated spaces, while others might impose stricter rules. It’s critical to understand the specific laws of the municipality where you are present.

PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION OF OPEN CONTAINER LAWS IN TEXAS

  1. Driver Violation: If the driver of a vehicle is found to have an open container of alcohol in their immediate possession, the offense is considered a Class C misdemeanor for the driver. The punishment for a first-time violation is a fine of up to $500.
  2. Passenger Violation: If a passenger in a vehicle has an open container of alcohol, but the driver is not in violation, the offense is considered a Class C misdemeanor. The penalties for the passenger can include a fine of up to $500.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are certain situations where the open container law doesn’t apply, such as when the container is in a locked glove compartment, trunk, or the area behind the last upright seat in vehicles without a trunk.

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Can Passengers Drink Alcohol in a Vehicle in Texas?

No. It is illegal to have open containers of alcohol in any seating area of a vehicle. That includes the front seat, backseat, and passenger side of a car.

According to the Texas Penal Code, it’s prohibited to knowingly have an open container of alcohol inside a vehicle on a public highway.

Again, it doesn’t matter if the vehicle is moving, stopped, or parked.

Pro tip: Remember, if you’re thinking about getting the party started on the way to the game or concert, it’s illegal to drink in a vehicle in Texas, even if someone else is driving.

Where is it legal for passengers to have Open Containers?

There are a few exceptions to Texas’ open container laws. Passengers are legally allowed to have open containers in buses, taxis, limos, and in the living quarters of a motor home or RV.

These exceptions, for example, make it okay to drink in a limo or party bus.

How can I Legally Transport a half-full Bottle of liquor from one Place to Another?

Open containers of alcohol can legally be transported if they’re stored in the trunk or a locked glove compartment. Don’t have a trunk? Open containers are allowed behind the last upright seat in a vehicle if there is no trunk.

You can receive a citation if an open container is not in one of these spots.

Can I be Charged with Open Container if My Car is Parked?

Yes, as long as your vehicle is on any publicly maintained street or road, you can be charged if you have an open container of alcohol in the vehicle.

Be careful at public events, for example, because this could apply to tailgating if you’re on a public street.

Can I have an Open Container in Public?

Texas doesn’t have a statewide ban on the public consumption of alcohol. But it’s illegal to consume alcohol in a state park or an area of a city that has specifically prohibited it.

Texas laws on public alcohol consumption fall into two general groups: public places and public places such as bars, nightclubs, and restaurants permitted to sell alcoholic beverages.

Public places – Drinking is prohibited between 1:15 a.m. and noon Sunday; between 12:15 a.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Exception: Public consumption is legal between 10 a.m. and noon Sunday at an on-premise establishment such as a sports venue, fair, or festival.

Public places permitted to sell alcohol – You can’t consume alcohol in a public place that is permitted to sell alcohol between 2:15 a.m. and noon Sunday and between 2:15 a.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Exception: Public consumption is legal between 10 a.m. and noon Sunday at locations such as sports venues, wineries, festivals, or concerts.

It’s a Class A misdemeanor to consume or sell alcohol during restricted timeframes, even at a place permitted to sell alcohol. However, special rules apply to sports venues, wineries, distilleries, and special events.

Our adept Dallas open container lawyer will review the circumstances in your case to determine if any of these defenses is applicable.

Also, cities can prohibit open containers or public consumption of alcohol per the Alcoholic Beverage Code.

Can you Drink in Public in Arlington?

Arlington is home to the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field, not to mention Texas Live!, the entertainment center located near the stadiums.

These venues host much more than just sporting events, including sold-out concerts and music festivals. So it’s not unusual for fans to drink in the parking lots, whether they’re officially tailgating or just getting the party started early.

If you think your citation was unwarranted, contact a Dallas open container lawyer.

Pro tip: City of Arlington law prohibits consuming alcohol within 1,000 feet of a substance abuse treatment facility or homeless shelter outside the business district.

What is the Punishment for an Open Container Citation in Texas?

Possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. It’s punishable by a maximum $500 fine. Typically, you’ll be cited with a ticket but not hauled off in handcuffs.

If you’d prefer to keep the infraction off your record, however, consult with a Dallas open container lawyer.

What are the collateral consequences of an open container ticket in Dallas?

It’s not necessarily the cost of the ticket that should most concern someone cited for an open container infraction. It’s the collateral consequences that could come with a conviction that might really disrupt your life.

A minor violation such as this could affect your academic or professional aspirations and your social status. A skilled Dallas open container lawyer will work every angle to resolve your case so that your future is not affected.

A blemish on your criminal record can affect any of the following:

  • Education: If applying for a graduate program, you might have to disclose your criminal history, and a criminal record could impact your acceptance.
  • Financial aid: You could be disqualified from some federal and state academic financial aid programs with a criminal record.
  • Employment applications: Many employers ask if you’ve been convicted of a crime on their application. You’re required to be honest, but disclosing even a minor infraction could prevent you from being hired.
  • Professional license/Security clearance: If your profession requires a license such as a real estate or nurse license, a conviction could lead to a license suspension, revocation, or failure to grant. Security clearances necessary for your job could also be suspended or revoked.
  • Auto insurance: Your auto insurance rate could increase with an open container conviction because your insurance provider views you as high risk.
Open Container Laws Are Strict

When is it legal to have an open container in a motor vehicle in Texas?

There are a few exceptions to Texas’ open container laws. The Penal Code allows these exceptions in two specific circumstances:

  • Taxis, limousines, buses: If the vehicle is designed, maintained, or used primarily as a service to transport people in return for compensation, an open container is legal as long as the person/customer being transported was in possession and not the driver.
  • Motorhomes, RVs, campers: If the open container is found in the living quarters of a vehicle such as a motorhome, recreational vehicle, or campervan, and not in the passenger or driving area.

If your case doesn’t fall under one of these exceptions, a conviction is likely. A skilled Dallas open container lawyer, however, will fight for a reduction or dismissal.

What are Defenses against Open Container, Possession of Alcohol Citations?

There are many effective defenses against an open container citation in Texas. Most of these defenses concern the details and facts of your case. These potential defenses include:

  • No reasonable suspicion: Police can’t stop drivers without specific, articulable facts that create a reasonable suspicion you were engaged in criminal activity.
  • No legal cause: Law enforcement must have legal cause to conduct a search of the vehicle. If the open container was not visible from outside the vehicle, the officer’s search might have been illegal.
  • Location of the container: An open container in the trunk, a locked container, or an area of the vehicle not occupied by passengers, such as the bed of a truck.

It’s important to find a resourceful Dallas open container lawyer who will also look for ways to dismiss or reduce the charge to an infraction, so your criminal record stays clean.

Are you facing an Open Container citation in Dallas? Call us.

If you are wondering why you would pay 10x the cost of the citation to hire an attorney, the answer is simple: you would only bring us on if the collateral consequences of a conviction would have a disproportionate impact on your life. For example,  your academic or professional career may be too important to allow an alcohol-related conviction to derail your goals. You may have a security clearance, a job that runs regular background checks, or a professional license that makes it worth bringing us on.

Our team at Varghese Summersett includes Board Certified criminal defense lawyers and former prosecutors. We will work to keep a conviction off your record.

For a free consultation, call 214-903-4000.

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