What is an open DWI container in Texas?
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious crime in Texas and an open container increases the sentence a person faces if convicted. This article provides a comprehensive overview of DWI with an open container in Texas, highlighting the details of the law, its effects, and potential consequences one may face.
Definition of “open container”
In Texas, an “open container” is more than just an unsealed bottle or can. It refers to any bottle, can or other container containing any quantity of alcoholic beverages in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. This includes containers that are open, have been opened, have a broken seal, or have had their contents partially removed.
Open Container Crime in Texas DWI
While a first-time DWI offense is classified as a Class B misdemeanor, introducing an open container into the equation Doubling the minimum prison term from 72 hours to six days.
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Areas and exceptions to the open container law
While the open container law is comprehensive, there are limitations to its scope. The open container may not be in designated seating areas or in any area accessible to the driver, such as glove compartments and storage areas. However, there are exceptions. For example, the trunk of a car or the living quarters of a mobile home are exempt. Passengers in certain types of vehicles, such as limousines and buses, are not subject to the same restrictions, due to the nature of these vehicles and the separation between passengers and drivers.
Possessing an open container in a vehicle is legal in Texas
While open container laws in Texas are strict, there are specific scenarios where it is permissible to have an open container in a vehicle:
- Vehicle boxes: The most common legal location for an open container is the trunk of a car. If your car does not have a conventional trunk, such as in an SUV or hatchback, the space behind the last row of upright seats is considered equivalent to the trunk.
- Locked glove compartments: Some interpretations of the law suggest that a locked glove compartment or similar locked storage area in a vehicle may be permissible for storing open containers, although it is always safer to opt for a trunk.
- Living spaces in mobile homes: If you are traveling in a motorhome or RV, living quarters are exempt from the open container law. This means that although the driver and front passenger areas must be free of open containers, they can be located in the living or sleeping areas of the vehicle.
- Commercial vehicle passenger areas: In vehicles such as limousines, buses or taxis where there is a clear separation between the driver’s seat and the passenger area, open containers can legally be located in the passenger section.
- Unopened containers: It is worth noting that the law specifically targets open or previously opened containers. A sealed bottle of wine or beer can that has never been opened does not violate the open container law, even if it is in the passenger area.
Penalty range for DWI with open container in Texas
In Texas, the penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) are already severe, but having an open container in the vehicle at the time of the violation magnifies the consequences. A DWI Open Container (DWI OC) violation is treated as a Class B misdemeanor. However, the minimum prison term for this offense is significantly higher than for a standard DUI.
For a first-time DWI OC offense, the minimum jail term is six days, which is twice the typical minimum of 72 hours for a regular first-time DWI. Additionally, violators can face fines of up to $2,000, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, and potential community service. It is also worth noting that subsequent offenses or the presence of other aggravating factors, such as the presence of a minor in the vehicle, can result in harsher penalties, including longer prison terms and higher fines.
DWI OC’s increased penalties underscore the state’s commitment to deterring drunk driving and the additional risks associated with in-vehicle alcohol consumption.
Penalties for open container violations
Possession of an open container, even without a DWI charge, can result in a fine of up to $500. However, when combined with a DWI charge, the penalties are much more severe, often including jail time, hefty fines, and possible license suspension. It’s a clear message from the state: mixing alcohol and driving is a dangerous cocktail.
|DWI (driving while intoxicated)||DWI OC (driving while intoxicated)|
|classification||Class B misdemeanor||Class B misdemeanor|
|Minimum prison term||72 hours||6 days|
|Maximum fine||Up to $2000||Up to $2000|
|Compulsory education||Alcohol education program||Alcohol education program|
Open container in connection with DWI charges
Interestingly, it is possible to face open container charges even without an accompanying DWI charge. This means that even if you are not intoxicated, having an open container in your car can result in legal repercussions. Conversely, an open container violation can also come with DWI charges, adding another layer of complexity to the legal scenario.
If you find yourself facing charges related to DWI or open container violations, it is essential to act immediately. Varghese Summerset is here to help. With a team of experienced lawyers, we provide expert guidance through the legal maze. do not be late; Call us today at (817) 203-2220 or contact us online.