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Georgia Open Container Charges

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-253 prohibits all people, not just drivers, from:

  • Consuming any alcoholic beverage, or
  • Possessing any alcoholic beverage container

in the passenger area of any motor vehicle on the roadway or shoulder of any public highway. The statute defines the “passenger area” as the area designed to seat the driver and passengers while the vehicle is in operation and any area that is accessible to the driver and/or passengers. It excludes locked glove compartments, trunks, and (in vehicles with no trunk) the area behind the rearmost passenger seat.

“Open alcoholic beverage container” is defined as any bottle, can, or other container that:

  • Contains any amount of alcoholic beverage, and
  • Is open or has a broken seal, or
  • The contents of which are partially removed.

It excludes beers and wines that have been properly sealed by home-brewers.

Who can be charged?

Only the person who consumes an alcoholic beverage or possesses the alcoholic beverage shall be charged (this is in contrast to the joint possession doctrine that the police often use in drug cases). However, if the driver is alone in the vehicle and no passengers are present, the driver is deemed to be in possession.

What is considered an “alcoholic beverage” for purposes of the Open Container Law?

Under the law, an alcoholic beverage includes:

  • Beer, ale, porter, stout, sake, or any other similar fermented beverage containing one-half of one percent or more of alcohol by volume, brewed or produced from malt or any malt substitute;
  • Wine containing at least one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume; or
  • Distilled spirits made up of ethyl or ethanol, including all dilutions and mixtures from whatever source.

What are the consequences for an Open Container Conviction?

Under state law, any person who violates this code section is subject to a fine of up to $200.00. It will also result in the assessment of 2 points on the convicted person’s driver’s license. Click here to learn more about points and how they can affect your ability to keep driving.

Relationship to Other Charges

Georgia DUI & Open Container

Perhaps not surprisingly, I frequently see Open Container charges in connection with DUI charges. If you are charged with DUI as well as open container, you are facing potential jail time, huge fines, a criminal record, and loss of driving privileges, as well as probation and community service. You should contact a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately.

Georgia Minor in Possession & Open Container

If you are under 21 years old and charged with open container, you will probably also be charged with Minor in Possession of Alcohol. This is a misdemeanor, but can still land you in jail or on probation and facing large fines. Even misdemeanor charges can have serious consequences for young people – it can affect college applications and scholarships, placement on athletic teams, and the ability to get a job down the road. Thus, neither of these charges should be taken lightly.

Why You Need A Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are charged with an Open Container violation, there are a few reasons you should consider hiring a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney. For one, the charge is often combined with other, potentially serious, charges. For those especially, an attorney is not just recommended, but essential. Second, license points add up quickly, and accruing 15 or more in a 24-month period will result in suspension. Third, although the fine seems relatively small, courts will probably tack on additional court costs, resulting in a total fine amount of potentially nearly $500, even for a first offense. And finally, many courts require multiple court appearances for defendants, with little regard for that person’s work or school schedule, childcare requirements, or whether the person even resides in state. This can make for an incredibly inconvenient experience, which a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer can possibly help you avoid by making court appearances on your behalf. If you are charged with Open Container in Georgia, call me today for a free consultation.

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Kevin Fisher

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