Avoiding an Arrest While Camping

Posted by Richard Lawson | May 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

Summer is officially here. The sun is out, the pool is open, and the barbecues are starting up. It is the perfect weather to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. Many people appreciate mother nature and pack up to sleep in the woods for a few days. Do not let a bad decision ruin your weekend at the campsite.

Here are some important things to remember: 

  • Every city or county has an open container policy. Research ahead of time what the local laws are for your camping area and specifically your campsite. Know before you leave whether you are allowed glass bottles or aluminum cans, or if you can even have an open container at the campsite. Remember, an open container in a vehicle in Georgia is always illegal and a driver found with an open container can be punished with a fine and 2 points on their license. 
  • Adhere to quiet hours. A charge of disorderly conduct can result from loud and boisterous behavior during a campsite's quiet hours. Do not give your campsite neighbors a reason to call 911. Be respectful of those around you and be consciousness of when to turn the lanterns down and turn the tone down. 
  • Be respect of local police and DNR Rangers.  Remember you are a guest of the campsite and of the county in which you are visiting.  The local sheriff's department will have no compunction to arrest "a guest" in their county.  You are not a voter there. 
  • Georgia DUI Laws still apply even in rural areas. This point may sound very obvious, but many people feel that they may not face punishment in rural areas where they perceive the police department as laid back country boys. Do not be fooled. DUI detection is a priority in every county in Georgia and officers are out in full force. Driving in an unfamiliar area can already be stressful, but adding alcohol into the mix can make matters worse. Shop for all the supplies you need before arriving at the campsite. Once you have a drink, stay settled around the fire; If you must go back to the store, make sure to designate a sober driver. The important thing to remember is to plan ahead; most rural counties do not have access to Uber or Lift, so do not get stuck having to drive somewhere after drinking. 
  • Prepare ahead. Make sure if you plan on fishing, you have your fishing license in advance. Look for signs posted to make sure you are fishing in an area that is not prohibited. Fishing without a permit can subject you to a fine. The Department of Natural Resource partners with local police to verify that those fishing are licensed to do so. Obtaining a fishing license is a quick and easy process. Do not take the risk of fishing without one. 
  • Pay your campsite fees. Many campsites are on the honor system. You may see a small box in the front of the campground where you fill out an envelope with your campsite number and put your camping fee in the envelope. It may be tempting to think you can stay a few nights without being noticed, but you are risking a charge of theft of services. A $10 campsite fee is much less than spending thousands on a theft charge. Do not assume your campsite is free. Research ahead of time and be prepared with the cash you need. Telling an officer after the fact that you did not have cash on hand will probably not remedy the situation. 
  • Remember that marijuana laws apply at a campsite.  Without discussing the merits of Georgia's marijuana laws, remember it is illegal to possess it in Georgia.  

When it comes to traveling, even if it is just to the great outdoors, the important thing to remember is to be prepared. In the event you lose cell phone service and cannot use your phone GPS, have back up directions printed. Bring enough cash on hand to pay campsite fees, and be aware of local campsite rules. Do not let a good weekend in the mountains get ruined by an arrest. 

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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