In recent years, the state of Georgia has created a number of new laws that are designed to decrease the risk of accidents caused by motor vehicle drivers who operate vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While many notable changes have come in the form of more severe criminal penalties for individuals convicted of various driving under the influence offenses, there are several other driving under the influence statutes including Georgia’s open container law.
This law was passed with explicit purpose of addressing growing concerns about alcohol involvement in motor vehicle crashes around the UNited States. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for individuals aged two to thirty three and while only six percent of crashes involve alcohol, forty one percent of all fatal crashes involve the use of alcohol. Individuals who are charged with this type of law frequently find it essential to retain the services
Applicable Georgia Law
Law in the official code of Georgia makes it illegal for any individual to possess or consume an open alcoholic beverage container in the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a road or shoulder.There are several areas that are left unspecified by this law.
There are several vague terms, however, used in this code, which individuals should understand:
- Open Container. In accordance with this code, an open alcoholic beverage container is any bottle, can, or receptacle that contain any amount of alcohol and either is open, has a broken seal, or the contents of the container have been partially removed.
- Passenger Area. This area generally refers to any area inside a motor vehicle where a driver or passenger sits while the motor vehicle is in operation. Locked glove compartments and trunks are considered part of the passenger area.
- The Container Must Hold Some Beverage. The container must contain some beverage. If the bottle is completely empty, a motorist will not be charged with violating the open container law.
Georgia’s Sealed Bottle Law
Law in the state of Georgia makes an exception for unfinished bottles of wine that are purchased at restaurant and have been resealed. Georgia law provides that any restaurant which is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises may permit a patron to remove one unsealed bottle of wine for each individual with the intention of consumption off the premises. This bottle of wine must be securely resealed before removal from the premises. This wine must then be placed in a secured bag or container. If you are carrying alcohol within a motor vehicle, you must place the alcohol container within one’s drunk to avoid the risk of law enforcement thinking that the individual is operating the motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Who Can be Charged
When law enforcement officers encounter individuals in violation of open container laws, only the individual who consumed alcohol or was in possession of an open container will be charged. Law enforcement will sometimes threaten to cite multiple individuals, but the open container allows law enforcement to change only one person for each vehicle. In the event that a motor vehicle driver is alone, an open container, however, will be considered to be in that individual’s presence. In cases where a motor vehicle driver is alone, the open container is deemed to be in the individual’s possession. Open container laws do not, however, apply in situations where either a vehicle is used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation like in the case of rideshare vehicles or in scenarios where the motor vehicles are used as living quarters like in examples involving motor homes. The law also does not apply to passengers in taxi cabs, limousines, or buses who are all free to consume alcohol.
Consequences of an Open Container Charge
Law enforcement officers in the state of Georgia who discover either open or partially consumed alcohol beverage containers during an arrest are likely to find cause to record this evidence for use during either a criminal trial or driver’s license administrative hearing. Individuals who are found to be in possession of open containers face fines up to two hundred dollars and two points place on their driver’s license. If convicted of possessing an open container, two points will also be placed on an individual’s Georgia driver’s license. If you accumulate fifteen or more points within a twenty four month period, your license will be suspended for one year. Individuals can also expect that their motor vehicle insurance will increase significantly as the result of such a charge.
There is also a significant risk in cases involving driving under the influence accident or multiple driving under the influence accidents that multiple containers can be used as aggravating circumstances and grounds for heightened penalties. Multiple offenders of open container laws can face mandatory minimum jail sentences in addition to being labeled as habitual offenders. For second or subsequent offenses, it might be necessary for individuals to pass a clinical evaluation before driving privileges are reinstated. After a third offense, the name and picture of the driver will be published in a local newspaper at the driver’s expense. For individuals under the age of twenty one who are charged with possessing an open container, the individual could face a license suspension for a period of one hundred twenty days with no limited-use driving permit. For minor who passengers in a vehicle but in possession of container, there is still a risk that the minor will be charged as a minor in possession in addition to an open container violation.
Retain the Assistance of a Skilled DUI Attorney
In the event that you are charged with violating an open container law, you must take the case very seriously because law enforcement can use the charge to enhance punishment against an individual in a driving under the influence case. It is often essential for individuals in these situations to retain the services of an experienced attorney like the legal counsel at Yeargan, Barber & Kert who know how to best respond to this type of case and have helped many other individuals in similar situations. Do not hesitate to contact our firm today.