You may be charged with violating Florida's open container law if an officer discovers an open alcoholic beverage in your vehicle. Even passengers can be charged for possessing an open container of alcohol in a moving vehicle. However, if you were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) and the arresting officer found an open container in your car, you could face stiffer penalties. If you believe you have been convicted of this offense unfairly in South Florida, justice can be served with the help of a Miami-Dade criminal defense lawyer.
An open container is any container from which you can drink alcohol or that has a broken seal. This can be anything from a can, jar, bottle, flask or cup that holds alcohol. Even a bottle of wine that has been re-corked or an empty bottle of liquor is considered an open container.
To avoid violating Florida's open container law, the alcohol must be placed in a location that is out of reach of the driver and any passengers. This may include the trunk, a locked glove compartment or any area of the vehicle without passengers (such as the bed of a truck).
An open container offense is considered a noncriminal, nonmoving traffic violation, which could result in misdemeanor charge. The penalty for this crime is a fine, which varies depending on if you were the driver or the passenger. Drivers may be required to pay $73-$90; passengers could be ordered to pay $43-$60. Please note that a driver can be ticketed for having an open container in the vehicle even if it belonged to the passenger.
If you are charged with driving under the influence in addition to an open container offense, you could face jail time, community service, a suspended driver's license and additional penalties. This can leave you with a criminal record that may affect you when applying for employment.
The federal government has left the matter of open container laws to the states; however, there are strong incentives for states to pass these statutes. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century sets out six criteria that states must meet in order to receive funding for roads. The 11 states that failed to comply with the guidelines must use a percentage of these funds for alcohol education programs.
Many jurisdictions prohibit individuals from consuming alcohol or possessing an open container while on city streets, parking lots, sidewalks and beaches; even if you are over the age of 21. Those who are underage can also be charged with possession of alcohol.