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Ohio’s open container law affects both drivers and passengers

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2023 | Drunk Driving

Most U.S. states have laws dictating that drivers can’t have open containers of alcohol next to them. This is understandable since having an open container of any alcoholic beverage could lead to drunk driving –a crime across America.

While some would think an open container law only applies to drivers, it applies to both drivers and passengers in Ohio. Penalties await anyone who violates the state’s strict ban on open containers.

What counts as an open container?

While the state doesn’t have a strict definition of what’s considered an “open container,” the term can describe a broad range of containers that can hold any amount of alcohol. This includes bottles, cans, reusable drinking flasks and so on.

Open container law also applies when the vehicle isn’t moving

Ohio law also prohibits drivers and passengers from possessing an open container of alcohol while in a stationary vehicle. The law still applies whether the driver parked on a public road or space or private property open to the public.

The penalties

If a driver faces charges of possessing an open container of alcohol, a court can convict them of a minor misdemeanor, which carries a $150 fine. However, if there’s evidence that a driver consumed an alcoholic beverage while driving, the offense is upgraded to a misdemeanor in the fourth degree. A conviction leads to a maximum $250 fine and up to 30 days jail time.

Having an open container on the driver’s side of the vehicle during a traffic stop could also give an officer enough reason to ask the driver to take a chemical test. If the driver’s blood or breath alcohol content levels are sufficiently high, the officer can charge them with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol (OVI).

Open containers are open invitations for potential criminal offenses. Suppose a driver wants to transport alcoholic beverages. In that case, they should ensure that the containers are sealed and the drinks are securely stored in a separate compartment like the trunk of a vehicle. A conviction for having an open container may sound silly, but it’s still a criminal conviction with fines and jail time.