The criminal offense of Open Container actually enhances the punishment against you in your DUI Case.
Georgia Law defines the open container offense in Georgia as:
“The consumption or possession of open alcoholic beverages in the passenger area of any vehicle while on a public highway or shoulder of a public highway.” O.C.G.A. §40-6-253.
Unlike other possession laws, such as possession of marijuana in Georgia, only the person actually possessing the open container will be charged with the open container offense. However, this means that if there are no other passengers in the car, then the driver will be charged. It does not matter what type of alcohol it is, if the container is open and in a car, it is illegal in Georgia.
In Georgia, an alcoholic beverage is any beverage that contains .5% alcohol by volume or more. The state of the container, meaning open or closed, can be inferred by either content removal or a broken seal. The open container has to be in the passenger area of your vehicle, which should not include a locked glove compartment or a trunk.
If you are convicted of open container possession, two points are added to your license, and you can be fined up to $200. 15 points within a 2-year period will result in the suspension of your Georgia license.
How do DUI and Open Container go together in Georgia?
The majority of DUI charges start with a routine traffic stop for a traffic violation. During the routine traffic stop, the officer is given the opportunity to see and smell the inside of your vehicle. If he or she can view an open container is in the passenger area, his or her immediate reaction will be to look for anything that might hint at the fact that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Moreover, an open container will likely make your car smell like alcohol, which will result in the officer being on high alert for DUI activity.
So, this is where the Georgia DUI Penalties substantially increase. The driver is now facing charges of the original traffic violation, DUI, and open container.
In fact, the open container charge actually strengths the State's evidence against you. This particular charge gives the State a stronger case than even Georgia DUI chemical sobriety tests because it is an offense that gives further evidence that you had been drinking as well as disregarding Georgia Law.
Different Georgia counties have different enforcements of open container, but the majority of the time you're facing a citation and a fine. And if combined with a traffic violation and a DUI, the penalties can be extremely harsh.
If you or a loved one have been charged with Open Container, a DUI in Georgia, or both you need to contact a Georgia DUI Attorney today. The offense of open container can be used as evidence against you to strengthen the possibilities of a DUI Conviction in Georgia.