Imagine you’re acting as the designated driver, responsibly taking your friends home after an event. However, someone in the back seat decides to grab a cold beer for the road. Before they pop that tab or unscrew the cap, it’s crucial to stop them. Why? Because, in South Carolina, having an open bottle or can of alcohol in a vehicle is a violation of the open container law.
In this article, we will delve into the details of this law to help you avoid potential legal troubles. Additionally, if you do find yourself facing charges, remember that consulting an experienced Orangeburg DUI lawyer can make a significant difference in your defense strategy and outcomes.
What Is the Open Container Law in South Carolina?
The open container law prohibits the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages inside motor vehicles. It aims to maintain public safety and prevent incidents related to alcohol consumption.
Under this law, an “open container” refers to any alcoholic beverage that has been opened or had its seal broken. This includes beer cans, wine bottles, liquor bottles, and even partially consumed drinks. The mere presence of an open container in your car can lead to legal consequences if found in circumstances prohibited by the law.
It’s important to note that South Carolina’s open container law applies not only to drivers but also passengers. If you’re traveling with an open container within reach, even in the back seat, you may face penalties regardless of whether you’re behind the wheel or not.
Liquor is defined as any beverage containing more than 0.5% alcohol by weight or volume. This encompasses not only spirits like whiskey and vodka but also wine and beer. The critical factor is the alcohol content. Whether the drink is commercially packaged or homemade, if it contains more than 0.5% alcohol, it falls under the definition of liquor as per South Carolina law.
Exceptions to the Open Container Law
Seasoned Orangeburg DUI defense attorneys are well aware of the exceptions to South Carolina’s open container law. These exceptions outline specific circumstances where having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is permissible. Knowing these exceptions can provide essential details to your lawyer, potentially aiding your defense.
1. Carrying Liquor in the Trunk or Luggage Compartment
In South Carolina, you may carry liquor in your car if it is kept in the trunk or luggage compartment of the vehicle.
It’s important to note that this exception only applies if the container is completely sealed or has been resealed after being opened. If you have an open container of alcohol, even if it’s located in your trunk or luggage compartment, you may still be subject to penalties under South Carolina law.
2. Parked Vehicles During Functions
Another exception to South Carolina’s open container law is when a vehicle is parked during certain functions. This means that if you are attending an event or gathering where alcohol is being served, you can keep your open container in your vehicle as long as it remains parked.
This exception allows individuals to enjoy their alcoholic beverages at events such as tailgates, picnics, or outdoor parties without violating the open container law. However, it’s important to note that this exception only applies if the vehicle is stationary and not being operated on public roads.
3. Cargo Area Separated from the Driver or Passenger Compartment Area
Finally, you are allowed to transport alcohol in a cargo area that is completely separated from the compartment where the driver and passengers sit. In other words, if there is a physical barrier between where you are sitting and where the alcohol is stored, you may not be in violation of the law.
As long as there is no way for the driver or passengers to access these containers while on the road, it can potentially avoid being considered an open container offense.
Penalties for Violating the Open Container Law
Now, you may wonder: how bad can it be if I am found with an open container in my car? An Orangeburg DUI attorney will tell you that you could face some serious penalties. The consequences can vary depending on whether you are a driver or a passenger, as well as any previous DUI convictions.
For drivers, having an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of your vehicle is considered a misdemeanor offense. This means that if you are convicted, it will go on your criminal record and could impact future employment opportunities.
The fines for violating the open container law can range from $100 to $200 for a first offense. However, these fines increase with subsequent offenses. You may also be required to complete community service or attend an alcohol education program.
In addition to these penalties, if you are charged with carrying an open container while driving under the influence (DUI), the consequences become even more severe. A DUI conviction can result in license suspension, mandatory ignition interlock device installation, increased insurance rates, and potentially jail time.
Talk to an Experienced Orangeburg DUI Lawyer!
If you find yourself facing charges for carrying an open container in South Carolina, it’s important to take the situation seriously. The penalties can be severe and can have long-lasting negative impacts on your life. That’s why it is crucial to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable Orangeburg DUI defense attorney.
An experienced lawyer will develop a strong defense strategy tailored to your specific circumstances. They will work tirelessly to protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome.
Don’t delay – contact the Orangeburg DUI Guy today if you’ve been charged with carrying an open container in South Carolina. We offer each new client a free case evaluation, so you have nothing to lose: 803-353-1969!