While they are confusing, an experienced Youngstown OVI lawyer will be able to explain Ohio’s Open Container laws to you. Open container laws are part of Ohio’s set of OVI laws. They were created to protect the public from people who become intoxicated in public or drive drunk. The laws restrict the ability of drinkers to drive with open bottles or cans, and those walking in public places with them.
What the Law Says
No one in a motor vehicle is allowed to drink alcohol (beer or any other intoxicating liquor). Nor are the driver or passengers allowed to have open containers in the vehicle. This law applies whether the vehicle is being operated on a street or sitting still on a highway, street, or other public property, or on private property that is open to the general public for parking or passing through.
Also, it is against the law to carry an open container (cup, bottle, can, etc.) of alcohol in a public place, unless the person carrying the container is in a specific zone that is in possession of a permit that allows it.
Exceptions to the Open Container Law
For vehicles, there are two instances where an open container of alcohol is allowed. One is in a chauffeured limousine, with the following caveats:
- Only the passenger(s) can drink, not the driver.
- The passenger can’t drink if he’s in the front seat, where the driver is.
- The passenger and his guest(s) have a prearranged contract with the limousine owner and have paid a fee.
The second exception for motor vehicles is an opened bottle of wine. As with limousines, there are conditions for this exception:
- The wine was purchased at a store or other place licensed to sell it.
- It’s stored in the trunk of the vehicle or somewhere inside the vehicle where the driver and passengers don’t usually sit and where the driver can’t access it. If the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the wine should be stored behind the last upright seat.
- The bottle has been resealed securely and in a way that makes it visible and clear that it’s been opened again or tampered with.
Exceptions for open containers in a public place are listed below.
- Alcohol, specifically beer and liquor, consumed at a convention facility
- Alcohol that was bought and paid for and consumed at a place that has a permit to sell it, either permanently or temporarily
- Wine and liquor tastings
- Alcohol you brought to a music festival, as long as the owner of the property has a permit to do so and has allowed you to do it
- Alcohol you brought in to an orchestra performance, as long as the proprietor has a permit to allow it and has allowed you to do so
- Alcohol you brought into a racetrack or other motorsports facility, as long as the owner allows you to bring it in
- Alcohol you bought from a vendor at an outdoor refreshment area. The vendor must have the appropriate permit and you must stay inside the refreshment area.
- You occupy a commercial quadricycle that is going down the road, as long as you are not in the front seat, have more than 36 ounces of beer or 18 ounces of wine, or are using it on a street, highway, or other public road where there is other traffic present.
Open Container Penalties
While there are certain exceptions to the rule, in Ohio, you aren’t allowed to just carry an open container or glass of alcohol in a public place. Also, if you have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, you will receive an enhanced sentence for your OVI charge.
Open container out of a vehicle is a first-degree misdemeanor. If comes with a fine of $150.
An open container violation inside a vehicle is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. You can be jailed for 30 days if convicted, and have to pay a fine of $250.
Youngstown Criminal Law Group are experts in defense of OVI-related charges, like open container violations. Call (330) 625-9199 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.