Many people in El Paso, Texas, think that DUI laws only pertain to driving, but it can also include open containers. If a police officer finds an open container in a vehicle, the driver could get charged with driving while intoxicated.
Open container laws and exceptions
Texas penal code defines open containers as “any opened receptacle or one that has been opened or has a broken seal with any amount of alcohol.” Receptacles can include a bottle of champagne with a loosened cork, an open can of beer or a cup with alcohol residue. This doesn’t apply to unopened bottle or cans in cases not yet opened or unopened single containers.
Texas law makes open containers in the passenger area of vehicles illegal even if the vehicle is not moving. Passenger areas refer to any part of the vehicle designed for riding but excludes the glove compartment, the area behind upright back seats and the trunk. Exceptions to the passenger rule are vehicles with paying riders, such as limos, and motor home living areas.
Penalties for open containers
A driver caught with an open container can only face one charge for that offense. However, the officer still may charge them with a DUI charge for another violation. The officer typically issues a citation to appear in court, and it’s common to release drivers who sign it.
An open container charge commonly gets issued as a Class C misdemeanor with a fine up to $500 and a minimum of three days in jail. If the driver possesses an open container with a DUI charge, they may get a minimum of six days in jail.
Officers cannot make an arrest unless they have probable cause. Drivers facing criminal charges may work with an attorney to find loopholes in the case, such as an officer acting without probable cause, to get the charges reduced or dismissed.