Bringing order to chaos since 1996

Why Georgia’s open container law is one of the strictest in America

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense, DUI

It’s unlawful to have an open container of any alcoholic beverage inside a motor vehicle in most U.S. states. Generally referred to as open container laws, some states might also have their own specific provisions. Some jurisdictions might allow passengers to hold an alcoholic drink, but others ban both drivers and passengers from possessing a container. Meanwhile, in some other places, offenders could even face jail time.

But Georgia might have one of the strictest open container laws in the country. While being charged with an offense isn’t a crime by itself, it can lead to a fine and points toward license suspension.

The specifics of the law

Georgia law prohibits anyone – driver or passenger – from consuming alcoholic beverages or possessing a container of any alcoholic beverage inside a motor vehicle, whether moving or parked. Officers can charge vehicle occupants for as long as the automobile is on a state public highway or the shoulder of a roadway.

Only the person who consumes the alcoholic beverage or possesses the container in violation of the rules will face charges under the law.

What makes this law one of the most severe in America is that even if a car is empty but has an open container of alcohol, an officer can charge the driver or owner of the vehicle for violating the rules. Additionally, even if a driver is the only occupant of a vehicle and there’s an open container of alcohol in the car’s passenger area that’s out of reach, the driver can still face charges.

The penalties for violation

Those charged with violating the state’s open container law commit an infraction. Infractions don’t show up on a person’s criminal record, but the offense is still punishable by a $200 fine. Georgia’s Department of Driver Services will also assess two points to the offender’s license. If the person accumulates 15 points within 24 months, the department suspends their license.

Open container violations could also accompany charges for driving under the influence (DUI). Drivers may have to deal with a DUI conviction and the penalties it carries along with the punishments for violating the open container law.

Having an open container of alcohol isn’t exactly a crime in Georgia. Still, the penalties for breaking the law can exacerbate any other sanctions the driver faces for DUI, especially when it comes to license suspension. Drivers shouldn’t hesitate to consult with a legal professional to understand all the punishments they potentially face for drinking and driving.

From offices in Augusta-Richmond County we serve clients in neighboring communities including Grovetown, Thomson, Waynesboro, Harlem, Lincolnton, and Wrens. Beyond Augusta we handle cases in Columbia County, Burke County, McDuffie County, Lincoln County and Wilkes County. We also proud to represent military families and veterans from Fort Gordon, Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Stewart, Fort Benning, Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem.