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DUI Defense

Ohio’s open container law: What you need to know

By June 26, 2024No Comments

Everyone knows that driving a car while under the influence of alcohol is illegal and can lead to serious legal consequences. However, in Ohio, just having an open bottle of alcohol in your car can get you into legal trouble, even if you’re completely sober.

Ohio’s “open container” law includes a few exceptions and won’t result in jail time unless you’re actually drinking while driving. Nevertheless, it’s an important traffic law that every driver in Ohio should be aware of.

From our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys at Hiltner Trial Lawyers, here’s everything you need to know about Ohio’s open container law and what to do when pulled over.

What Is Ohio’s Open Container Law?

According to Section 4301.62 of the Ohio Revised Code, “No person shall have in the person’s possession an opened container of beer or intoxicating liquor while operating or being a passenger in or on a motor vehicle.” Even if you’re just a passenger, you could still face penalties for having an open can of alcohol in a moving vehicle.

There are two exceptions to this law:

1. Chauffeured Limousine Rules:

A passenger in a chauffeured limousine can legally consume alcohol and possess an open container if:

  • They or a guest have paid for the service through a prearranged contract.
  • They are not seated in the front compartment near the driver.

2. Opened Wine Regulations:

An opened bottle of wine isn’t considered an open container if:

  • The wine bottle is securely resealed before being taken from the place where it was purchased.
  • It is stored in the trunk of the vehicle or behind the last upright seats if there is no trunk.

Aside from those two circumstances, the law is quite strict about not having open containers in the car. Fortunately, if you’re not intoxicated, the consequences are less severe.

Consequences of Carrying an Open Container in Your Car in Ohio

Getting a citation for carrying an open container in your car is likely only going to result in a fine. Here’s a breakdown of the consequences for breaking Ohio’s open container law:

  • Possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle is punishable by a fine of up to $150.
  • Drinking alcohol while in a vehicle is punishable by a fine of up to $250 and a maximum of 30 days in jail.
  • If you’re under 18, possessing an open container can also lead to your license being suspended for 6 months to a year.

Of course, this is all assuming that you haven’t had enough to drink to be intoxicated. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) level tests at .08% or more, you could be charged with operating a vehicle while under the influence (OVI) in Ohio, commonly known as a DUI. This is a much more serious charge.

Penalties for Operating a Vehicle While Under the Influence (OVI) in Ohio

Following the consequences of carrying an open container, the OVI/DUI charge in Ohio carries much stiffer penalties, reflecting the increased risk and severity of the offense

Here are the criminal consequences you could be facing for an OVI/DUI: 

  • First offense: Up to 6 months in jail, up to 5 years probation, a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Second offense: Minimum 10 days in jail, up to a $1,500 fine, other penalties remain the same as a first-time offense.
  • Third offense: 30 days to 1 year in jail, up to 5 years probation, and up to a $2,750 fine.
  • Fourth offense: The charge is now a felony, which could mean 2 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

If the result of your breathalyzer test or if your BAC was over .17, the OVI or DUI is considered “high level,” and jail time for these offenses could be doubled.

Impact of an Open Container Charge in Ohio

Being convicted of an open container offense can significantly impact your life, including:

  • Challenges in maintaining your current job.
  • Difficulties in securing future employment.
  • Potential complications or denials in immigration and naturalization processes.

Despite being classified as a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine, an open container violation is still an alcohol-related offense and warrants serious consideration.

What to Do About Your Ohio Open Container Law Charges

If you’re charged with drinking while driving or charged with OVI, the first thing you need to do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, like our team at Hiltner Trial Lawyers.

We have the experience and knowledge of the criminal law of the state to answer your questions and fiercely defend you in the courtroom. We will work our best to help you get your penalties or charges reduced or even dropped

Contact Criminal Defense Attorneys at Hiltner Trial Lawyers Today!

Although open container charges may appear minor, they can lead to fines, potential jail time, and a permanent mark on your criminal record. 

You don’t need to stress over the situation alone! Our Ohio criminal defense lawyers will be here to support you every step of the way. We have extensive experience handling charges from minor alcohol-related offenses to serious violent crimes. 

Contact our team at Hiltner Trial Lawyers for a free consultation today at 330-475-3164.

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