Having an open container isn’t against the law is it? It could be. Generally, consuming alcohol is not wrong, especially when you do it within legal limits and in designated places. When you go beyond the legal limit, it is also not a crime in itself. However, it becomes an offense when you drink and drive an automobile, be it a car, motorcycle, or truck.
This is because driving under the influence of alcohol is not a victimless crime. More often than not, drunk drivers cause motor vehicle accidents that result in severe body injuries, deaths, and property loss. The problem of driving drunk is worse because everyone involved in a drunk driving accident is a loser.
While a victim might lose a limb or their life, the drunk driver loses their freedom. Thus, Indiana implemented strict laws regulating alcohol consumption and motor vehicles to reduce the devastating and life-changing effects of drunk driving accidents. One such legislation is the open container law.
In this article, our Indianapolis drunk driving attorneys at Rathburn Law Firm take an in-depth look at the open container law. We will also consider the punishment for breaking this law. If you find yourself in breach of this rule, we advise you to secure the services of an attorney immediately.
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A DUI Attorney in Indianapolis Explains the Open Container Law
Legislations surrounding alcohol and motor vehicles in Indiana strictly prohibit drivers from driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% and above. For commercial drivers like truck and school bus operators, the limit is 0.04% BAC. Similarly, Indiana’s open container law prohibits drivers from having an open bottle or can of alcoholic drink in their vehicles.
The law applies to cars, boats, large vehicles like semi-trucks, and 18-wheelers but doesn’t include motorhomes. What’s noteworthy is that it doesn’t matter whether you are sober or impaired. What the law looks at is whether there is an open alcohol container or not. If there is one, then you have broken the open container law.
Thus, suppose you just bought a six-pack beer or a bottle of wine and placed it in the front passenger seat. The worst that would happen if you’ve not opened it is police carrying out field sobriety tests to see if you’re impaired. If you’re not, they’ll send you on your way. But if you’ve opened a can from the six-pack and it sits open in the cup holder, you’ll be guilty of breaking this law even if you haven’t sipped the drink.
There’s a third option to all these. It’s when you buy an alcoholic drink but place it in a place where you can’t reach it while driving. Often, the proper location is the vehicle’s truck. So, even if an officer finds a six-pack opened in your car’s trunk, they cannot cite you for an open container violation.
Does the Open Container Law Apply to Passengers?
Generally, passengers can have alcohol in their system beyond the legal limit and not commit a DUI. This is because they are not the ones operating the vehicle. However, this doesn’t give them the liberty to do as they please.
So, while a passenger can drink as much as they please before entering a vehicle, Indiana open container law forbids them from drinking while in transit. So, in summary, whether you are a front seat or backseat passenger, you cannot open an alcoholic beverage in a moving car.
What Is the Punishment for Violating the Open Container Law?
If a law enforcement officer pulls you over and arrests you for an open container violation, you will face a Class B misdemeanor charge. The offense is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000. For passengers, it is a Class C misdemeanor that could result in up to sixty days in prison and fines up to $500.
Most people think that having a misdemeanor on their record is not a big deal. After all, it does not sound as severe as a felony. But any type of criminal conviction is a bad look for your social and professional life. In addition, most employers will not hire someone with a record, especially in the commercial driving industry. So think twice before violating the law, and get an attorney as soon as you do.
Consult a DUI Lawyer in Indianapolis Today!
If you’ve been arrested and charged with an open container law violation in Indianapolis, you need representation from a highly qualified Indianapolis DUI defense lawyer. At Rathbun Law Firm, we have highly skilled defense attorneys who will ensure you do not get convicted. We are on your side, so call us today to schedule an initial free consultation.