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What is DWI Open Container in Texas?

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense in Texas and an open container enhances the punishment a person faces if convicted. This article provides a comprehensive overview of DWI with an open container in Texas, shedding light on the specifics of the law, its implications, and the potential consequences one might 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 receptacle that contains any amount of alcoholic beverage in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. This encompasses containers that are open, have been opened, have a broken seal, or have partially removed contents.

Texas DWI Open Container Offense

While a first-time DWI offense is classified as a Class B misdemeanor, the introduction of an open container into the equation doubles the minimum jail 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 cannot be in areas designed for seating or any area within the driver’s reach, such as glove compartments and storage spaces. However, there are exceptions. For instance, the trunk of a car or the living quarters of a motorhome are exempt. Additionally, passengers in certain types of vehicles, like limousines and buses, are not bound by the same restrictions, given the nature of these vehicles and the separation between passengers and drivers.

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Legally Possessing an Open Container in a Vehicle in Texas

While the open container laws in Texas are stringent, there are specific scenarios where possessing an open container in a vehicle is permissible:

  1. Vehicle Trunks: The most common legal location for an open container is the trunk of the car. If your vehicle doesn’t have a traditional trunk, such as in the case of SUVs or hatchbacks, the area behind the last row of upright seats is considered equivalent to a trunk.
  2. Locked Glove Compartments: Some interpretations of the law suggest that a locked glove compartment or a similar locked storage area in a vehicle might be permissible for storing open containers, though it’s always safer to opt for the trunk.
  3. Living Quarters of Motorhomes: If you’re traveling in a motorhome or RV, the living quarters are exempt from the open container law. This means that while the driver and front passenger area should be free of open containers, they can be present in the living or sleeping areas of the vehicle.
  4. Passenger Areas of Commercial Vehicles: In vehicles like limousines, buses, or taxis where there’s a clear separation between the driver’s seat and the passenger area, open containers can be legally present in the passenger section.
  5. Unopened Containers: It’s worth noting that the law specifically targets containers that are open or have been previously opened. A sealed bottle of wine or a can of beer that has never been opened doesn’t violate the open container law, even if it’s in the passenger area.

Punishment Range for DWI with Open Container in Texas

In Texas, the penalties for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are already severe, but the presence of an open container in the vehicle at the time of the offense amplifies the consequences. A DWI Open Container (DWI OC) violation is treated as a Class B misdemeanor. However, the minimum jail term for this offense is notably higher than a standard DWI.

For a first-time DWI OC offense, the minimum jail term is six days, doubling the typical 72-hour minimum for a regular first-time DWI. Additionally, offenders can face fines of up to $2,000, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, and potential community service. It’s also worth noting that subsequent offenses or the presence of other aggravating factors, such as a minor in the vehicle, can lead to even steeper penalties, including longer jail terms and higher fines.

The heightened penalties for DWI OC underscore the state’s commitment to deterring drunk driving and the additional risks associated with consuming alcohol within vehicles.

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 more severe, often involving jail time, hefty fines, and potential 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 Open Container)
ClassificationClass B MisdemeanorClass B Misdemeanor
Minimum Jail Term72 hours6 days
Maximum FineUp to $2,000Up to $2,000
Mandatory EducationAlcohol education programAlcohol education program

Open Container in Relation to DWI Charges

Interestingly, it’s possible to face open container charges even without accompanying DWI charges. This means that even if you’re not intoxicated, having an open container in your vehicle can lead to legal repercussions. Conversely, an open container violation can also accompany DWI charges, adding another layer of complexity to the legal scenario.

Contact Us

If you find yourself facing charges related to DWI or open container violations, it’s essential to act promptly. Varghese Summersett is here to assist. With a team of seasoned attorneys, we offer expert guidance through the legal maze. Don’t delay; call us today at (817) 203-2220 or contact us online.

Varghese Summersett is a premier criminal defense firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. Our attorneys focus exclusively on criminal law and represent clients charged with crimes at both the state and federal level. We handle everything from DWI to capital murder to white collar crime. Collectively, our attorneys bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience and have tried more than 550 cases before Texas juries. All of our senior attorneys served as former state or federal prosecutors and four are Board Certified in Criminal law, the highest designation an attorney can reach. We are the firm people turn to when the stakes are high and they are facing the biggest problem in their lives. - Contact Varghese at  
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