Impairment and open container laws in Georgia

Many traffic stops often include more than just a suspicion of being impaired. An officer may cite a driver for speeding, weaving or even reckless driving, depending on the circumstances. Any of these driving behaviors could provide further evidence of an impaired driver. Furthermore, if a driver is also accused of violating the state's open container laws, the situation could become more complicated.

If someone in the passenger compartment of a vehicle broke the seal on a container that contains alcohol and part, or all, of its contents are gone, that could violate Georgia's open container laws regardless of whether the vehicle is on the roadway or stopped on the shoulder. The individual in possession of the open container receives the violation, but that might not save the driver from a DUI arrest. An open container may create probable cause for an officer to believe that the driver is impaired, especially when the driver is alone in the vehicle.

Such a citation could serve to bolster the contention that the driver was impaired at the time of a traffic stop. Most people are aware that the legal blood alcohol concentration limit for adults is .08 here in Georgia. However, if the driver suspected of impairment is under the age of 21, the legal BAC limit drops to just .02, which could lead to additional charges if an open container is found such as minor in possession of alcohol.

A driver arrested for DUI who is also cited for violating the state's open container laws should not necessarily resign to his or her fate. Everyone has the right to challenge the evidence prosecutors intend to present to the court and may confront any witnesses, including the arresting officer. Considering that the stakes often include much more than any potential criminal penalties, it would be advantageous to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to determine the options available and the course of action that may lead to the best possible outcome to any charges.

Source: gahighwaysafety.org, "Georgia's Impaired Driving Laws & Penalties", Accessed on May 20, 2017

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