Open Container Law in Texas


The current open container law in Texas was part of a push to make the laws around drinking and driving stricter. Moreover, they had to comply with the Federal Transportation Equity Act to ensure the state received funding. 

For over a decade, there have been no significant changes to the open container law. However, many Texans remain confused about what the law covers. When you receive an open container ticket in Houston, TX, it’s not always easy to navigate the legal system. 

With an experienced criminal defense attorney, you have someone to guide you through it. Schedule a free case evaluation today to learn more. 

What Is an Open Container?

The term “open container” seems simple at first. However, the penal code is not so easy to interpret. The Texas Penal Code, Title 10, § 49.031 covers possession of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle. 

Per the penal code, a person commits this offense when they knowingly possess an open container in the passenger area of a vehicle on a public highway. This applies whether the vehicle is in transit, stopped, or parked. 

For many Texas, the open container law leaves them with many questions. 

  • Can a passenger have an open container or is that against the law, too? 
  • Does an open container ticket go on your record? 
  • If the open container is in the trunk, is that illegal? 
  • Is it legal to drive with an open container of alcohol anywhere in the car?
  • What are the consequences if I unintentionally violate this law as a driver or passenger?

At first, you might think you understand what qualifies as an open container, public highway, and passenger area. However, many Texas drivers don’t realize that these laws are stricter than many believe. 

For instance, “open container” applies to a bottle, flask, or other container with any level of alcohol in it that is currently open or has been opened. Put simply, a previously opened bottle of whiskey counts under the open container law in Texas. 

The only exclusions are containers that have never been opened or still have an intact factory seal. 

What Counts as the “Passenger Area”?

The “passenger area” of this law is also a point of confusion. Essentially, any area where a container of alcohol is visible to the driver and within reach counts. However, the law specifically excludes open containers in the following areas. 

  • A locked glove compartment 
  • The trunk 
  • Areas behind the back row of seats in cars without trunks

“Public Highway”

Lastly, while the penal code refers to “public highways” specifically, this includes more than interstates and freeways. In reality, it applies to any container on a publicly maintained road. 

Additionally, it includes areas immediately around any public road. So, if you park on a quiet back road, it’s possible to violate this law. 

What Are the Penalties of the Open Container Law in Texas?

On its own, possession of an open container in a vehicle is a Class C misdemeanor. The base penalties include a fine of up to $500. It carries no mandatory jail time. 

So long as you and your passengers violate no other laws, you receive a ticket and pay a fine. However, a violation of the open container law enhances the penalties of other crimes. 

For instance, if you face DWI charges, an open container in your vehicle increases the fines and jail time you face. Oftentimes, we refer to this as an “open container enhancement.” 

In such a case, this violation of the open container law is open to treatment as a Class B misdemeanor. This level of misdemeanor carries fines of up to $2,000 with potential jail time of up to 180 days. 

Similarly, if you receive a charge for an open container while on DWI probation or with a suspended driver’s license, the potential penalties grow yet more severe. No matter the penalty, it’s important to understand how far-reaching the consequences can be. 

While the state’s punishment is limited to a relatively minute fine, it goes on your record. Often, this has a negative impact on academic and career pursuits. For example, you might have a harder time attaining financial aid. 

Additionally, many employers check criminal records. Moreover, when you need a professional license or security clearance, these records come under consideration. Lastly, car insurance companies often consider people with open container law convictions a higher risk. That leads to higher monthly premiums. 

Fighting an Open Container Charge

Whether you face basic open container charges or an enhancement to your DWI, you have an opportunity to fight the charge. If an officer pulls you over, the law requires that they have reasonable suspicion and sufficient cause to search your vehicle. 

If your charges stem from an illegal stop or an unlawful search, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. At The Martinez Law Firm, our DWI defense attorneys have a great deal of experience and expertise. Let us help you protect your future and fight for your rights. 

Don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation today. 

Intoxication Manslaughter Charges in Texas

Intoxication Manslaughter in houston texas

If you’ve been charged with a serious crime such as Intoxication Manslaughter, you will need an Intoxication Manslaughter Lawyer. Contact us today for a free consultation.

In Texas, anyone who is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and gets behind the wheel automatically faces very serious criminal charges such as Intoxication Manslaughter. The problem only becomes compounded if the accident leads to significant property damage or another person becomes injured. One of the worst forms of these accidents occurs when someone is wrongfully killed as a result of the drunk driving accident.

In our state, this criminal act is called intoxication manslaughter. Below, our Houston DWI lawyer at The Martinez Law Firm expands further on this type of criminal charge and what form of defense can be offered.

What Is the Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder?

The most significant difference between manslaughter and murder is that the latter is premeditated. Someone made a conscious effort in planning to take another person’s life. Manslaughter, on the other hand, is often accidental, and the person had no malice or intent to kill. The penalties for manslaughter are not typically as severe as those for murder; nonetheless, facing any type of criminal charge, no matter how serious, will be a stressful experience.

Intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony and carries these possible penalties:

  • Fine of up to $10, 000
  • Incarceration for 2 and up to 20 years even if probation is given to the accused
  • Community service: minimum of 240 hours and up to 800 hours

One major difference between intoxication manslaughter and manslaughter is how it is defended in court and how the case will be presented. It is extremely important to have an intoxication manslaughter lawyer because the perception from the court’s standpoint is zero tolerance.

The fact is, perception and judgment become compromised when someone is intoxicated, is the very fact that someone made the decision to drink and drive. The prosecution may find a reason to use this as a point to move their case forward and try to secure a conviction. It will be up to your Houston DWI attorney to stay one step ahead and counter those arguments.

Get An Intoxication Manslaughter Lawyer Now—Call The Martinez Law Firm!

Lead attorney, Herman Martinez, serves Houston, Texas with sharp, knowledgeable, and client-driven defense against criminal charges and DWI. He uses his knowledge of the law and sharp legal skills to ensure that the investigation process is thorough and clients are given fair representation in court.

If you are facing intoxication manslaughter or any type of DWI or criminal charge, do not wait. Please give our Houston DWI lawyer a call today to discuss your case further.

Salvia Divinorum Added to the Texas Controlled Substance Act

salvia added to controlled substance list in texas, criminal defense lawyer herman martinez reports

Salvia Divinorum is a plant that is also called Diviner’s Safe and Seer’s Safe. It is a plant which can induce dissociative effects and can cause visions or other hallucinatory experiences. The plant grows in Oaxaca, Mexico or in other sandy and moist locations. It can be over one meter high.

In most countries, this plant is legal for recreational use. This is partially because it is not very common and it is not typically used as a hallucinogenic. In some cases, it can induce a visionary state of consciousness and some religious groups use the plant during spiritual healing sessions. Most of the plants local names infer that the plant is an incarnation of the Virgin Mary.

Salvia Divinorum is not illegal according to the federal law, but some states have banned the substance on their own level. The Salvia divinorum is currently illegal in Texas and is considered a violation in penalty group 3. The Texas laws say that all parts of this plant, including the seeds, and the extracts, are illegal.

The only time that the plant is legal is if it is unharvested and growing in its natural state. This protects some homeowners in Texas who may have the plant growing in their backyard but never planted it and don’t intend to use it for hallucinogenic purposes. If you have been accused of using this drug for recreational purposes, then you are going to want a Houston criminal defense attorney on your side to represent you in your case.

With the right Houston criminal defense attorney there to assist you, you may be able to get the case result that you need and avoid conviction. Because this drug is not heavily prosecuted, you may be able to strike a plea bargain or avoid prosecution. Hire the firm today to learn more!

Texas Crimes: Bribery

Bribery explained by houston criminal defense attorney herman martinez

According to the Texas Penal Code, bribery is the offense of intentionally and knowingly offering a person money or collateral for an illegal action; Individuals can be charged with this if they offer, confer, or agree to confer on another for a recipient’s decision about a situation, vote, or another exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official.

Bribery also applies to people who offer benefits to a person for their decision in a judicial or administrative proceeding, such as in a court case. For example, if an individual was charged with a crime, and bribed a judge to have him declare the defendant not guilty, this would be considered the crime of bribery. Also, if a person offers benefits for a political contribution, this can be considered bribery.

All bribery offenses are typically considered second-degree felonies. This also applies to tampering with witnesses in court cases, and to encouraging individuals to lie about the situations surrounding a case. Oftentimes those who commit the crime of bribery do not intend to commit a serious crime. Instead, they may be caught up in working to secure their innocence in a court case, or may be concerned about their welfare and will ask individuals to do them a favor for a reward.

It is best to remember that bribery is a serious crime and to avoid it at all costs. Talk to an attorney today if you want to learn more about bribery or if you need defense in a bribery case. You may be able to claim that you were misrepresented, or that you have been framed and did not intend to bribe anyone. Also, if you can prove that you were misinterpreted, and that in the conversation that allegedly took place you did not actually bribe the individual, then this may help in your case. Talk to a lawyer at The Martinez Law Firm for more information.


Texas Driving Laws in Effect in September

Texas Driving Laws - Houston Defense attorney Herman Martinez

Texans Driving Laws are changing! Texans will want to be extra-cautious on the roads these days after the Texas legislature passed a variety of new driving laws. These laws include stiffer penalties for motorists who don’t change lanes for Texas Department of Transportation workers that are working out on the roads. These workers are often hit by speeding drivers that fail to move away from the lane where the individuals are working.

This has resulted in many tragic fatalities for on-the-job workers. Now, when individuals fail to change lanes to avoid the workers in compliance with the Texas driving laws, they can be dined with heavier expenses. According to research, in the past ten years seven workers have died after they were hit by drivers.

Those who were originally charged with failing to move over and slow down could be punished with a misdemeanor resulting in a $200 to $500 fine. Now, the individuals can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor that is punishable by up to six months in prison. If the violation results in bodily damage then the full sentence may be imposed on the individual who violated the law.

Also, individuals who pass stopped school buses when the buses are picking up students for school can also be fined with heavier expenses. In the past, an individual who passed a stopped school bus could be dined between $200 and $1,000. Now, the new law increases those fines to range from $500 in the least to up to $1,250 at the most.

It is also illegal for individuals to use cell phones while driving near schools, and they can be fined with stiffer penalties as a result of the new driving laws. If you have been arrested for a traffic infraction of this nature then you need to contact a Houston criminal defense attorney today to learn more!


Texas and the Primary Belt Law

seat belt laws in texas, explained by criminal defense attorney herman martinez

In some states, individuals cannot be punished for failing to put on a seat belt. Yet this is not true in every situation. In some states, individuals can be fined for failing to buckle up when they get on the road. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that there is some sort of mandatory seat belt law in every single state except for New Hampshire. Yet only 28 states permit police officers to find a person for failing to buckle up in the back seat.

Belt laws in 33 states and the District of Columbia are called primary seat belt laws. This means that a police officer is permitted to pull a driver over solely based on the fact that that individual is not wearing a seat belt. In other jurisdictions, the police need to stop the vehicle for another reason, such as speeding or an expired license, before they can discuss the issue of the seat belt and impose a fine.

If you are caught without a seat belt and want to contest the violation, then you can contact a local criminal defense lawyer to help you. You may think that it is over-dramatic to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you with something as simple as a traffic infraction, but there are times that this investment can save you a lot of money and possible license revocation.

When you are slapped with another traffic violation, your insurance could go up, and you may be forced to cope without a license for a set amount of time. You can attempt to avoid these penalties by discussing your case with an attorney at our Houston criminal defense firm today. Hire a lawyer at The Martinez Law Firm and work hard to fight the prosecution and avoid a sentence that could cause difficulty in your life!