Everyone knows that driving a car while under the influence of alcohol is illegal, and can lead to some serious legal consequences.
But in Ohio, just having an open bottle of alcohol in your car can get you in legal trouble, even if you’re completely sober.
Ohio’s “open container” law has a few exceptions, and won’t land you any jail time unless you’re drinking it while you’re driving. But it’s still an important traffic law that every driver in Ohio should keep in mind.
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.
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 be in trouble for having an open can of alcohol while in a moving car.
There are several exceptions to this law:
- If you’re a passenger in the back of a chauffeured limousine
- If you have a sealed bottle of wine in the trunk of your car
Aside from those two circumstances, the law is pretty strict about not having open containers in the car. Luckily, if you’re not intoxicated, the consequences aren’t too severe.
Consequences of carrying an open container in your car
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 30 days in jail
- If you’re under 18, possessing an open container can also get your license 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), commonly known as a DUI. This is a much more serious charge.
Here are the criminal consequences you could be facing for an OVI:
- First offense: up to 6 months in jail, up to 5 years probation, fine of up to $1,000
- Second offense: minimum 10 days in jail, up to $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, up to $2,750 fine
- Fourth offense: the charge is now a felony, which could mean 2 years in jail and a fine up to $10,000
If your BAC was over .17, the OVI is considered “high level,” and jail time for these offenses could be doubled.
Contact a criminal defense attorney in Ohio
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 criminal law to fiercely defend you in the courtroom and help you get your penalties reduced, or your charges reduced or even dropped. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.