In Texas, it is a crime to drive while intoxicated or drive people who are drunk or drinking. It is also not allowed to have an open mug, bottle, or can of beer in the car while sitting or driving. As long as the bottle has a broken seal, whether you are drinking or not, you will be in serious trouble once the police get you. This law that prohibits you from having an open liquor bottle in your car is called Open Container Law. It took effect in September 2001.
Defining an Open Container Law Violation
According to Texas Law, you go against Texas’ open container law if you have an open container of alcohol or liquor in the passenger area of a vehicle that is on a public highway. An open container can be an open bottle, a flask, container, or a can. Under this law, it doesn’t matter if the car is parked or moving.
The good side is that there are exemptions to this. The Open container law does not apply to motor vehicles that transport people who are paying for the service of being transported. These are vehicles like buses, limousines, and taxis. In these vehicles, it is okay to have open containers.
Another exemption is if an open container is found in a glove compartment, a trunk, or the back of the last upright seat then you won’t be charged. Vehicles that are designed to be homes such as campers and motor-homes are also exempted from this law.
Penalties for an Open Container DWI Offense
If an officer from the Houston Police Department charges you with an open container law violation, he or she will write you a ticket. You must sign the ticket as a promise to show up in court. If you are found guilty, then you are accused of a Class C Misdemeanor offense. You will be required to pay a fine of $500 with no jail term.
However, possessing an open container could attract DWI penalties if you were at the time driving while intoxicated. The sentence for a DWI offense is usually a minimum of 3 days but in this case, a DWI offense involving an open container is usually 6 days on the minimum. Your charges may also be severe if it is discovered that you violated DWI probation.
Not only that, the offense could affect other areas of your life like your education and career. You may end up missing out on important opportunities such as financial aid, scholarships, and work-study among others.
How To Fight A Houston Open Container Law Charge
There are ways you can escape from the open container law charge. With the help of a good DWI attorney, you can get a good defense leading to the charges being dropped. Some of the evidence that the court will need is you owning the container at the time you were stopped by a police officer and the container being opened. If there is no evidence, the charge may be dismissed.
Another defense is if the police were on an unlawful search at the time, then the evidence could be dismissed and the charge brought against you would have to be dropped.
What to Do When the HPD Pulls You Over
It is always good to know how to act and what to do when a police officer pulls you over. When you get stopped by a police officer, be cooperative but do not give them information that they have not asked for. Also, allow them to search your car if need be. Note that it is better if they perform their drinking driving tests instead of going to a hospital to have a BAC test.
In conclusion, all the penalties and consequences associated with violation of the open container law are not worth it. Always make sure you store your open containers in the trunk before you start driving.