Because alcohol and automobiles can be a deadly combination, Georgia’s laws on open alcoholic beverage containers in a motor vehicle are very strict. The vehicle does not need to be in motion for the law to apply. Even if the vehicle is not on the road but pulled off to the shoulder, the person in possession of the open container is still culpable in the eyes of the law.

Generally speaking, no one in the passenger area of a motor vehicle may have a container of an alcoholic beverage with a broken seal and partial removal of its contents. These may include boxes, bottles, cans or other receptacles. The penalty for an open container violation is a fine of $200.

Passengers

The open container law applies to all occupants of a vehicle, passengers as well as drivers. However, there are a couple of exceptions. Passengers may have open containers in the living area of a house trailer or motorhome. They may also have open containers in vehicles designed and used for transporting passengers for a fee. Such vehicles may include but are not limited to taxis, buses and limousines. However, the open container law still applies to the driver of any of these vehicles.

Possession

Authorities may not charge a driver for possession of an open container by a passenger. However, if there is an open container in the car and the driver is the sole occupant, the law presumes that the container is in the driver’s possession. Therefore, if a passenger were to consume all or part of a container of alcohol and then leave the container in the car upon exiting the vehicle, authorities may hold the driver responsible for the presence of an open container. This is true even if the driver did not drink from the container or even touch it.

A driver in possession of an open alcoholic beverage could potentially face additional DUI charges as well as the open container violation.

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