Can I Go to Jail for an Open Container Violation in Georgia?
You know that drinking and driving is illegal in Georgia. But did you know it is also illegal for a driver or a passenger to even possess an open container of alcohol while a vehicle is on the road? Georgia’s “open container” laws are actually more complicated than you might think. And in some cases, it can lead to potentially serious legal consequences.
The basic rule in Georgia is that a person may not consume alcohol or “possess any alcoholic beverage container” while in the “passenger area” of a motor vehicle that is on the road (or even the shoulder of the road). This rule applies to both the driver and any passengers. But only the person who is actually consuming or in possession of the alcohol is liable for the infraction.
Consider a hypothetical scenario. Donald is driving his car. Janice is his passenger. Janice drinks a beer while the car is on the road. A police officer pulls over Donald to give him a speeding ticket. The officer sees Janice drinking the beer and then issues her a citation for the open container violation.
In this situation, Donald is not liable for his passenger’s open container. But let’s say Donald dropped -Janice off before the cop pulled him over. Janice left her half-full beer can in the passenger seat. If the officer sees the open container, he can then cite Donald, as he is the only person in the vehicle at the time.
Exceptions to the Open Container Rule in Georgia
Now there are a number of exceptions to the open container rule. Here are just a few:
- You can legally keep an open container outside of the “passenger area” of the vehicle while driving. This includes a locked trunk or glove compartment.
- You can consume and possess an open container in a vehicle if you are a passenger in a vehicle that’s used to transport people for compensation, such as a taxicab, limousine, or party bus.
- You can consume and possess an open container of alcohol in the living area of a motor home or trailer.
- You can legally transport partially empty bottles of wine purchased from restaurants or homemade malt beverages provided they are re-sealed and kept in a locked glove compartment, trunk, or behind the backseat of a vehicle without a trunk.
Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today
On its own, an open container violation is considered a minor traffic infraction in Georgia. The maximum penalty is a $200 fine and 2 points on your driving record. But if you are under the age of 21–the legal age to possess and consume alcohol in Georgia–you could also lose your driver’s license for up to 120 days and be charged as a minor in possession. And if you have a prior DUI conviction, the terms of your probation may forbid you from consuming alcohol, in which case an open container violation could lead to your probation being revoked and possible jail time.
If you are facing any alcohol-related criminal charges and need legal advice from a qualified DeKalb County DUI lawyer, contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.