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Open Container Violations in Texas: Fines, Penalties, and Legal Defense

Texas’ drinking and driving laws can be confusing to understand. That’s especially true when it comes to the state's open container law. If you are charged with violating this law, the penalties can be severe, especially if other driving while intoxicated (DWI) violations come into play.

This is why you need a DWI lawyer handling your case if you have been charged with violating Texas’ open container law. An experienced DWI defense attorney can review your charges, answer your questions, and explain your potential legal options.

What is Texas’ open container law?

Texas Penal Code § 49.031 (2022) is the state’s official Open Container Law. This law is part of Texas Penal Code Title 10 (Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, and Morals), Chapter 49 (Intoxication and Alcoholic Beverage Offenses), Section 49.031 (Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in Motor Vehicle).

In Texas, an open container refers to any “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,” according to the state statute.

According to the Texas Open Container Law, an open container holding alcohol is not allowed in a vehicle on a public highway, which Texas defines as “any public road, street, highway, interstate, or other publicly maintained way if any part is open for public use for the purpose of motor vehicle travel.”

The state’s open container rules also apply to drivers and all passengers in the vehicle. For example, if a driver is sober but a passenger has an open can of beer, both the driver and the passenger are in violation of Texas’ Open Container Law.

Are there exceptions to Texas’ open container law?

An open container of alcohol can be allowed in a vehicle in Texas, provided that the open container is stored in one of the following areas in the vehicle:

  • A locked glove compartment.
  • The trunk of the vehicle.
  • The area behind the last upright seat in a vehicle without a trunk.

One exception to Texas’ Open Container Law involves recreational vehicles (RVs) and motor homes. The living area of an RV is not considered the passenger area of a motor vehicle. As a result, it is legal to have an open alcohol container in the living area of an RV.

Another exception involves passengers in a bus, taxi, or limousine. In Texas, it is legal for passengers to have an open container of alcohol in these vehicles.

Is having an open container in a parked car legal?

In many cases, no. It is against the law. The same open container rules apply in Texas, whether the vehicle is in motion or parked on a public way. The common exception to this law is tailgating at sporting events. Many colleges, universities, and sports arenas have designated areas where tailgating and consumption of alcohol are legal.

Is it legal to transport a previously opened bottle?

As explained above, you can transport an open container of alcohol under certain circumstances in Texas. In general, as long as the open container is in the trunk or locked glove box of your vehicle, you are complying with Texas’ Open Container Law.

Can you transport an open container in the trunk?

Yes. It is perfectly legal to transport an open container of alcohol in the trunk of your vehicle in Texas.

What is the penalty for an open container charge?

A violation of Texas’ Open Container Law is a Class C Misdemeanor. As a result, the penalties can be a fine of up to $500.

However, the penalties can be even more severe if the open container violation is part of a DWI charge. In that particular case, violation of Texas’ Open Container Law is considered a Class B Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and a jail term of 6 to 180 days.

Why you need an experienced Texas DWI defense attorney

Open container violations can quickly turn into complicated legal cases. This is why it’s critical that you have an experienced Texas DWI defense lawyer who knows the law and can work with you to build a strong legal defense.

As a former prosecutor, attorney Amanda Webb understands how the state’s criminal justice system works. We can review your criminal charges and explain which legal strategy makes the most sense in your particular case.

Take your charges seriously right from the start. Contact The Webb Firm, P.C., and schedule a free consultation to see how we can help you. We are available 24/7 and handle cases in the Houston Area, The Woodlands Area, Conroe, Montgomery County, and Waller County.

How Does a DWI Affect Car Insurance in Texas?

Handcuffs, car keys, money, and a judge's gavel lay on a table with a glass of juice

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense that can have severe consequences, both legally and personally. One area where the impact of a DWI can be keenly felt is car insurance.

On average, when a Texas driver gets a DWI, their insurance rate goes up 58% for 3-10 years, according to WalletHub. This is an even bigger hit than it may first appear. Texas already has some of the highest insurance rates in the U.S., as drivers without DWIs on their records pay an average of $2,400 for full coverage.

Using WalletHub's calculations, a Texas driver with a DWI conviction would pay an average of about $3,800 for full coverage.

A DWI can have serious legal and personal consequences

Like many other states, Texas takes a strict stance on drunk driving, and insurance companies also take these violations seriously. A massive insurance rate hike is just one of many reasons why if you are charged with DWI in Texas, it's in your interest to contact an attorney.

Attorney Amanda Webb and her dedicated legal team have years of experience protecting the freedom of people accused of DWIs in Montgomery County and the surrounding area. We have a wealth of knowledge on Texas DWI law, process, and how to tear down seemingly solid evidence, like BAC test results.

DWI SR-22 insurance

As we noted, when a driver is convicted of a DWI, it can lead to a significant increase in car insurance premiums. The exact rate hike can vary depending on several factors, such as the insurance provider, the driver's prior record, and the circumstances of the DWI.

After a DWI conviction, drivers in Texas are often required to obtain an SR-22 certificate to reinstate or maintain their driving privileges. However, this can be difficult. Insurance companies typically view SR-22 coverage as undesirable or "high-risk" policies.

An SR-22 is a form that verifies a driver carries the minimum required liability insurance coverage. An SR-22 must be renewed annually, usually once every year for 2-3 years. This additional requirement adds to the hassle and financial burden of a DWI, as drivers must obtain and pay for the SR-22 filing.

If you need an SR-22, there's no getting out of it. An insurance card or policy cannot stand in place of an SR-22. Driving privileges and vehicle registration may be suspended if an SR-22 is required and not maintained.

Talk to a DWI defense lawyer about your potential options

In Texas, a DWI conviction can have far-reaching consequences, including a substantial impact on car insurance rates. However, there are steps a driver can take to mitigate the effects. First and foremost, the best course of action is to avoid further traffic violations or DWI offenses, as additional convictions will make the situation worse.

Also, completing a defensive driving course or alcohol education program can demonstrate commitment to responsible driving and may have a positive influence on insurance premiums.

However, the most critical thing to do after an arrest for DWI is to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Remember, the legal process can move very fast, and the sooner you talk to an attorney, the better.

If you are facing DWI charges in Conroe, The Woodlands, Houston, or elsewhere in Waller County, Montgomery County, or Harris County, Texas, contact us today for a free DWI case evaluation. A member of our legal team can listen to the details of your case, answer your questions, and help you decide what to do next. Our law firm is available to hear from you any time, day or night, 7 days a week.

What Happens if I Get an Out-of-State DWI in Texas?

Drunk driving concept showing a gavel with a glass of liquor and car keys.

Make sure you have a DWI attorney who can protect your rights.

Driving while intoxicated, by its nature, is a crime that sometimes crosses state lines. If you live in another state and were charged with DWI in Texas, you may be wondering whether the process is different.

The short answer is that the process is mostly the same. While DWI laws vary from state to state, driving while intoxicated is a crime everywhere, and there is a great deal of overlap between state laws. Moreover, a DWI charge in one state will absolutely follow you around in other states. However, there are some differences in the legal process, and an experienced Texas DWI lawyer can help you navigate those differences.

Does an out-of-state DWI count as a previous charge for enhancement purposes?

As you may know, a key factor in the penalties you face for a DWI conviction is the number of previous convictions on your record. The penalties for a second DWI offense are significantly harsher than the penalties for a first offense, and the penalties for a third or subsequent offense are harsher still.

If you're wondering whether an out-of-state DWI counts as a previous offense for these purposes, the answer is yes. Note that an out-of-state charge may be called something different, such as DUI (driving under the influence), OUI (operating under the influence), or OWI (operating while intoxicated), but as far as Texas penalties for a second or subsequent DWI offense are concerned, they all count. So, if you have a previous DWI, DUI, OUI, OWI, or similar conviction in your home state, you are likely looking at enhanced penalties under Texas law, even if it's your first DWI in Texas.

Likewise, a DWI conviction in Texas will most likely count as a previous offense for enhancement purposes in your home state, although of course, these laws vary from state to state.

Can Texas suspend an out-of-state driver's license?

The State of Texas does not have the authority to suspend or revoke a driver's license issued by another state. So if you are licensed in another state and get a DWI in Texas, then you are not subject to the license suspension or revocation penalties that Texas typically applies in DWI cases.

However, like nearly all U.S. states, Texas is part of the Driver's License Compact (DLC), which means it shares DWI information with other states. So, if your home state normally suspends driver's licenses for DWI or equivalent arrests or convictions, then your driver's license will very likely be suspended by your home state after a DWI arrest or conviction in Texas (unless you live in one of the few states that are not in the DLC).

The same generally applies to any associated points, insurance surcharges, or other administrative penalties, although how those penalties are applied to out-of-state offenses varies from state to state.

In addition, a DWI in Texas will be added to the National Driver Registry, which any state can access. A future application for a driver's license in your current state or another state may be held up based on the information in this registry.

Why you need a Texas attorney to fight a Texas DWI charge

If you were arrested for DWI in Texas, it's especially important that you hire a local Texas attorney to handle your defense. A local attorney who knows the law, the courts, the judges, and the juries will be best positioned to help you fight the charges and protect your rights.

From a logistical perspective, hiring a local attorney also means we can handle matters in Texas on your behalf while you return home. In many cases, we are able to resolve a DWI charge for an out-of-state client without any need for you to return to Texas for hearings or other proceedings.

We can move your case forward with remote consultations, conference calls, overnight delivery of documents, and so on.

Remember, the legal process for DWI in Texas moves fast, and the sooner you hire an attorney, the better. If you are facing DWI charges in Texas as an out-of-state driver, contact Amanda Webb — DWI Lawyer as soon as possible for a free consultation.

How a Texas DWI Can Affect Your Professional License

Woman is denied for professional license in Texas due to DWI

Alcohol-related crimes can affect the status of dozens of Texas occupational professional licenses.

In Texas, a DWI conviction carries more penalties than a suspended driver's license, fines, and the possibility of incarceration. A DWI on your record can limit your options for housing, education, and financing. For people with professional licenses, a DWI can be devastating for their careers. In Texas, the status of many types of professional licenses can be affected by criminal convictions, including driving while intoxicated (DWI).

It's always smart to defend yourself against DWI charges, but the need to fight back is even more critical if your career depends upon being licensed. Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer has been protecting the rights and freedoms of people accused of DWI in the Houston Area for over a decade. We understand the full impact a DWI can have on a person's life and the processes available to restore professional licenses. If you have been charged with DWI in the Greater Houston Area, contact us for a free case evaluation to learn more about your options. Here's what professionals in Texas need to know about how a DWI affects professional licenses.

Texas DWI license considerations

Texas has dozens of professional occupational licensing authorities responsible for issuing and renewing hundreds of occupational licenses. Occupational licensing entities include the Texas Medical Board, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, Texas Health and Human Services, Texas Real Estate Commission, and Texas Board of Nursing. Every professional license has regulations regarding criminal behavior and license status that apply to new applicants as well as license holders. Because there is so much variation in application and regulation, it is best to consult a DWI defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest to determine how an alcohol crime can affect license status and what can be done if a charge or conviction leads to a license being revoked or suspended.

Some professional occupational licenses don't consider DWI an issue, while others have harsh penalties. However, in Texas, any type of repeat criminal conviction on any kind of charge may be a reason to review the status of a professional license. When determining whether a criminal conviction should be grounds to deny issuing or reinstating a license, Texas considers the following and other factors:

  • The nature and seriousness of the crime.
  • The relationship between the crime and the nature of the professional license.
  • The extent to which a license may offer the opportunity to engage in further criminal activity.
  • How old the person was when the crime was committed, and how much time has since elapsed.
  • Work conduct and activity since the criminal activity.

List of Texas licenses affected by DWI

Here are some, but not all, of the professional licenses affected by DWI and/or other alcohol-related crimes in Texas:

Texas Medical Board and other medical licensing authorities

A DWI or, in some cases, another type of alcohol-related charge, can affect the status of occupational licenses issued by the Texas Medical Board, including those issued to a physician, physician assistant, acupuncturist, medical radiologic technologist, non-certified radiological technician, respiratory care practitioner, medical physicist, and perfusionist. Medical professionals with criminal histories or recent charges should request a Criminal History Evaluation Letter (CHEL) from the Texas Medical Board, the Texas Physician Assistant Board, or the Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners to determine whether charges or convictions will affect their licenses and, if so, how to appeal. The Texas Board of Nursing also considers crimes related to the use or possession of drugs or alcohol to be highly relevant to a nurse's fitness to practice.

Texas Real Estate Commission

The commission considers DWI directly related to the responsibility of real estate brokers and real estate sales agents' "trustworthiness." A request for a Fitness Determination, which is similar to a CHEL, should be considered before applying.

Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation

The following professional licenses issued by the TDLR may be affected by a DWI and/or other alcohol-related charges and/or convictions:

  • Athletic trainers.
  • Behavior analyst.
  • Code enforcement.
  • Dieticians.
  • Driver education and safety instructor.
  • Dyslexia therapists and practitioners.
  • Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Systems.
  • Hearing instrument fitters and dispensers.
  • Laser and hair removal.
  • Massage therapy.
  • Midwives.
  • Motor fuel metering quality.
  • Motorcycle operator training and safety instructor.
  • Offender education.
  • Orthotists and prosthetists.
  • Podiatry.
  • Sanitarians.
  • Speech-language pathologists and audiologists.
  • Tow truck operators and permit holders.

Contact an experienced Conroe, TX DWI lawyer for help.

A DWI or other alcohol-related crime can ruin your career. Not only can a conviction cause some to lose their professional licenses, social factors and employer standards cause a person to face disciplinary actions, which means they could get in trouble at work. They might be suspended from their job or even lose it. This is just one of many reasons why it is important to take all DWI and alcohol-related charges seriously in Texas. If you are facing DWI charges in the Houston Area, our Conroe-based DWI defense law firm can help you fight accusations and negotiate or litigate aggressively for the best outcome. Contact Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer for a free case evaluation to learn more about how alcohol charges may affect your Texas professional license and your options for a strong legal defense.

10 Mistakes Police Make In DWI Arrests

man pulled over by police, Texas DWI lawyer

Understanding how police mistakes can be used to protect your freedom

Getting arrested for DWI can be very upsetting, and a conviction can have serious consequences. These include loss of license, fines, and possibly even jail time. But prosecutors still need to be able to prove their case. That's why having an experienced DWI lawyer fighting for your rights is important.

Your lawyer will carefully review your arrest to check to see if any mistakes were made. Here are ten mistakes police sometimes make when making a DWI arrest.

1. Stopping a person based only on an anonymous 911 call.

For a 911 call to justify a stop, the officer must have specific information about the caller and independent reasons to stop a moving vehicle. In DWI law, this is a contentious issue as the tip may come from an unreliable source, such as a vindictive ex-partner or a victim of road rage.

2. Following a driver into a residence without permission or probable cause.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution safeguards your home against unauthorized entry. Police require permission from you or a warrant from a judge to enter your home, even if running inside won't prevent a DWI.

3. Basing an arrest solely on the statements of another driver.

In cases of accidents, law enforcement officers must have either personal knowledge or independent corroboration of statements. Without concrete evidence, such as the time of driving or the identity of the driver, obtaining a conviction can be difficult. This scenario often arises in cases of reduced driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges, where there is insufficient proof to support the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

4. Detaining someone longer than necessary.

Officers can perform traffic detentions to enforce traffic laws but cannot hold someone indefinitely without reasonable suspicion of a crime.

5. Stopping a car because of a "hunch."

A law enforcement officer can only stop a driver if they have reasonable suspicion of a crime being or having been committed. Any evidence obtained during the stop and arrest cannot be used in court without specific facts to support the suspicion.

6. Stopping a car for going too fast or too slow without more proof.

Laws governing speed were put in place to ensure safety on the streets. Evidence is needed to prove that driving too slowly or exceeding the speed limit was unreasonable or imprudent.

7. Stopping a car for weaving within a lane.

Drivers are legally required to remain in their lane as much as possible. But drivers are also allowed to leave the lane slightly to dodge potholes and debris. That's why an investigation of the scene is needed.

8. Failing to follow state breath testing regulations.

There are strict procedures that must be followed under Texas law regarding the collection of blood and breath samples. If procedures are not followed properly, the test results will not be allowed as evidence.

9. Failing to follow field sobriety test procedures properly.

The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) sponsors training for officers. If the SFST is not administered properly, the results can be challenged in court.

10. Arresting someone who was not intoxicated.

Police officers are human beings and sometimes react poorly. For example, they may arrest someone who was merely coming from a bar or was in an area where there are several bars. They may arrest someone who they felt was being confrontational when pulled over.

Contact Amanda Webb - DWI Attorney today

If you've been arrested, call an experienced DWI attorney. Attorney Amanda Webb has been defending clients in Montgomery County since 2009. She knows how to build a strong case and what it takes to get charges reduced or, in some cases, even completely dropped. Learn more about how she can help. Contact us for a free consultation.