Across the country, there is a patchwork of laws pertaining to open containers, and whether or not a passenger may drink in a vehicle. While some states permit open containers and passenger consumption, others have outlawed both. Arkansas and West Virginia are the only states in the union that permit open containers but do not permit passenger consumption. Every other state has a uniform policy toward both - either both are allowed or both are prohibited. The two are legal in just eight states.
In Georgia, both are strictly prohibited and there are legal sanctions against these acts. If you are stopped by law enforcement and a passenger is drinking or there is an open container in your vehicle, you as the driver could be cited or arrested. The maximum fine for drivers that have a passenger with an open container is $200. As the driver, a conviction for possessing an open container will also add 2 points to your Georgia driver's license. Your passenger can just receive the $200 fine. If 15 points or more are accumulated in a 24-month span, your license will be suspended for 1 year and you may be subject to a $200 fine. In short, your passenger may not consume alcohol in your vehicle or you will be the one to pay the consequences.
According to Ga. Code §40-6-253, If the operator of a motor vehicle is alone with an open container in the passenger area, they will be assumed to be personally in possession of that open container. If, for example, you were a designated driver for friends and they left a half-empty bottle in your vehicle, make sure that you remove it from your car as soon as you become aware of it. If you are pulled over later on, for any reason, and an opened container of alcohol is found in your vehicle, you may be liable under this statute.
The 40 states that prohibit open containers and passenger consumption conform to the federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). By conforming they become entitled to certain federal funds for highways. Per TEA-21 regulations, these states must prohibit the possession of open containers in a motor vehicle. They may not be within reach of the driver or in the passenger area. This applies to all alcoholic beverages and all passengers in the vehicle. There is a notable exception made for "any passenger in the passenger area of a motor vehicle designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation or in the living quarters of a motor home or house trailer.” This would include alcohol consumption in the backs of limousines and party buses, for example, also exempting motor homes and trailers from the statute - meaning alcohol consumption by passengers is permitted in these vehicles, but not by the driver.” There is also an exception for unfinished bottles of wine purchased on restaurant premises.
If you have been charged because a passenger was drinking or left an open container in your vehicle, Georgia Attorney Richard Lawson is ready to put his 20 years of experience to work and fight your charges. Whether the citation was its own charge or was charged in conjunction with a DUI, contact Georgia DUI Attorney immediately so that he may review the case against you and begin building your defense.