Robert R. Hart, Jr., Attorney at Law
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Open container laws and passengers

Ohio motorists are well aware that it is illegal to drive drunk. More specifically, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content over .08 percent. While the person behind the steering wheel cannot be intoxicated, it is not illegal for car passengers to have a BAC over the legal limit. However, most states do not allow passengers to drink while they are in a car.

Car passengers cannot drink alcohol while riding in cars because in doing so they would be breaking open container laws. In most jurisdictions, containers of alcohol cannot be unsealed in vehicles, on sidewalks or on streets. If a car is stopped and a passenger is found with an open container, both the passenger and the driver could be charged for possession of an open container in a vehicle.

Ohio is one of the many states with open container laws, but there are seven states that do allow passengers to drink alcohol in cars. Some states with open container laws have exceptions to the laws in certain jurisdictions. For example, the French Quarter in New Orleans has allowed open containers in vehicles in an effort to promote tourism. Vehicle occupants in the French Quarter may enjoy open containers from the many drive-through cocktail vendors.

People who have open containers of alcohol in their vehicle during a traffic stop may be accused of driving drunk. However, the prosecution must have evidence that the driver's BAC was over .08 percent in order to bring a conviction for DUI. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help a defendant to dispute a drunk driving charge and argue that open containers in the vehicle are not proof of intoxication.

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