Have You Been Charged with Open Container in Georgia?
While many people understand that driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a criminal offense in Georgia, they often overlook the rules regarding open containers. Georgia has enforced various new laws to address the concerns about alcohol involvement in motor vehicle crashes over the past years. If you or a loved one has been arrested or cited for open container in Georgia, contact Georgia’s premier criminal defense attorneys now.
Georgia Law on Open Containers
O.C.G.A. §40-6-253 (a)(2) defines an open container as any bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains any amount of alcoholic beverage and is open or has a broken seal and the contents are partially removed. Containers that have been resealed will not constitute an open container.
Georgia's open container law reads as follows: A person shall not consume any alcoholic beverage or possess any open alcohol beverage in the passenger area of any motor vehicle which is on the roadway or shoulder of any public highway. O.C.G.A. §40-6-253(b)
Only the person possessing the alcohol will be charged with the violation. However, if there are no passengers, then only the driver will be charged. The statute outlines that if the seal has been opened and the contents have been partially removed, then that will constitute an open container. It does not explicitly state how much has to be removed, but courts have found that even if a small amount is gone, a charge will be justified.
The Penalty for Violating Georgia's Open Container Law
A person convicted of open container in Georgia will be guilty of a misdemeanor. The punishment will be a fine up to $200.00. Additionally, two points will be added to your Georgia driver's license. Even though the penalty seems minimal, it is still important to hire a Georgia Open Container Lawyer. For a person over 21, an accumulation of fifteen or more points within 24 months will lead to a one-year license suspension.
Many times, open container is charged along with other offenses such as DUI. It is best to have an attorney handle everything you have been accused of and try to work out a deal with the prosecution. Contact our Georgia DUI Attorneys, and we will walk you through the process and inform you of your options.
However, if you are under 21 years of age and are charged with possessing an open container while driving, you could face a 120-day license suspension. You will also be ineligible for a limited-use driving permit. If you were the passenger charged with possession of an open container in Georgia, you could still face an open container violation along with a minor in possession charge.
Georgia Defenses to an Open Container Charge
Multiple Georgia criminal defenses are available to you if charged with open container. Our open container lawyers in Georgia have over 50 years of experience in criminal defense and know what it takes to be successful. A variety of legal arguments are available based on the specific facts of your case including:
- You were in a hired car: Driving services such as Lyft, Uber, taxi's, or limos are not subject to the open container rule. Motor vehicles designed, maintained, or used primarily for transporting people for money are not subject to the open container rule.
- The alcohol was kept in the trunk: If the alcohol was not in a place readily accessible while driving, then it will not fall under the open container statute. However, courts have found that alcohol kept in an unlocked glove box is grounds to receive an open container citation.
- The officer lacked probable cause to make the stop: Even if you had an open container in your vehicle, that evidence might be inadmissible if the officer did not have probable cause to pull you over.
- Illegal search and seizure: If the open container was found due to an unlawful search and seizure conducted by an officer, then the evidence will not be admitted in court.
- Multiple people were in the car: If you had four passengers in the car and there is no evidence that the container was on your person or under your control, then you cannot be convicted of Georgia's open container law.
There is also an exception for unfinished bottles of wine that were purchased at a restaurant and had been resealed. Under Georgia law, any restaurant that has a license to sell alcohol may permit one patron to remove one unsealed bottle of wine for each individual with the intent to consume it off the property.
Our Georgia Open Container Attorneys are here to answer your call whenever you need us. Our office is available nights, weekends, and holidays to address your concerns. We do not think you should have to wait until the next business day to have your questions answered. We understand criminal charges are stressful, and you want answers now! Contact us now for a free case evaluation.