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Can I be charged if an open container in my car wasn’t mine?

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2022 | DUI |

Getting stopped by the police on suspicion of DUI is always a source of anxiety, even when you are 100% sober. Just as you expect the officers to send you on your way, they spot a drink container in your car.

Unfortunately, the bottle is half-filled with alcohol. It belongs to a friend, but you are the one who may face legal trouble.

What is an open container?

An “open alcoholic beverage container” is considered a violation of impaired driving laws. It’s defined as either containing some alcohol and being open or having a broken seal or missing some of its contents

In other words, an overlooked tequila bottle containing only a swallow or two can qualify as an illegal open container.

Who gets charged with the offense?

Georgia impaired driving statutes seek to penalize only the person who broke the law. If your friend is still a passenger in the vehicle, they can claim possession of the container, and you will face no charges.

If you are alone when the police stop your vehicle, you may face open container charges. You risk legal action even if you explain that the container belongs to someone else since you likely can’t prove that.

What are the penalties?

Open container laws exist to protect the public. Essentially, lawmakers presume the presence of such containers mean there is a risk that the vehicle operator is intoxicated. As such, the penalty if caught with an open container is a fine of up to $200.

You can fight against your open container charges, potentially preserving your sound reputation and your money. Learn more about state DUI-related laws and defense options to get started.