The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that restaurants are allowed to operate in Texas. The recent decision to close bars amid concerns about spreading the coronavirus has received attention, including protests by bar owners and employees. Texas had earlier enacted another change to how alcohol is sold when it allowed to-go alcohol sales from restaurants. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the waiver for to-go alcohol sales in order to help restaurants that could no longer serve dine-in customers. He has said that he will consider continuing the practice after the pandemic is over because of its popularity. However, to-go alcohol sales can potentially lead to drivers violating the open alcohol container laws and a charge of driving while intoxicated if they are not careful.
How Do To-Go Sales Work?
The waiver for to-go alcohol sales allows customers to purchase an alcoholic beverage as a carry-out order as long as:
They are purchasing the beverage along with food
The alcohol is in a sealed container while it is being transported
With the new rule, restaurants have been able to sell beer, wine, and kits to make your own mixed drinks at home. Despite the name, to-go alcohol sales do not allow you to take an alcoholic beverage in a to-go cup as you would with a non-alcoholic beverage.
Being convicted for possession of an open alcohol container in the passenger area of a vehicle is essentially a traffic ticket if there are no other related charges. In Texas, it is a class C misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of as much as $500. However, an open alcohol container charge is sometimes coupled with a driving while intoxicated charge. Having an open alcohol container is an aggravating factor in a DWI case and may increase your punishment if you are convicted.
What Is an Open Container?
An open alcohol container is any receptacle holding alcohol that shows signs of being used. This includes when:
The phone rings, it is three o’clock in the morning and your friend needs your help. After a night out on the Texas town your friend has come to the realization that they are too intoxicated to drive. Satisfied with your friend’s decision of not enlisting in the ranks with the reported 2.1% of Texans who have admitted to driving while having too much to drink, you are only happy to help. Clearly beyond the legal limit of a .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and not another soul in sight they surely made the smart decision of contacting you for help but there is one thing that could easily undo this good deed, your friend jumped in your car with an open container of alcohol.
Thankful you were available to help and save your friend from an almost certain driving while under the influence (DWI) charge or worse yet, an accident, not much thought has been given to the open beer as you continue the drive to his house.
As yet another beer can cracks open your attention quickly diverts to the Texas State Police cruiser behind you and in an instant, the lights begin signaling you to pull over. No worries you think as you remember that your passenger tail light has burnt out and you have yet to repair it. Perhaps a warning and perhaps even a bit of authoritative praise for your journey of good will toward you intoxicated friend.
The Law Offices of Sam H. Lock, with offices in San Antonio and Seguin, Texas, provides criminal defense representation for people charged with state and federal crimes throughout Texas and the United States, including San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, Waco, Hondo, New Braunfels, Laredo, Kerrville, San Marcos, Boerne, and Del Rio, Bexar County, Guadalupe County, Comal County, Wilson County, Gonzales County, Kendall County, Bandera County, Caldwell County, Hays County, Travis County, Medina County, Blanco County, Burnet County, Atascosa County, Live Oak County, Nueces County, Uvalde County.