Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Open Container “Did You Knows”

Like most states, Louisiana prohibits carrying open containers of alcohol in motorized vehicles on the road. Baton Rouge and surrounding cities restrict the possession of open containers of alcohol on some private property, even when you are not operating a car.
The aim of these laws is to prevent general intoxication and driving while intoxicated. Let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of “open container” violations:
What is an open container of alcohol?
An open container of alcohol is any container that has been opened with some of the beverage consumed. Alcohol is any drink that contains one half of one percent of fermented spirits, such as beer, ale, wine, distilled alcohol, etc. If the alcohol in the container is frozen, however, and there is no straw inserted, it is not usually considered an open container.
What’s “availability” have to do with it?
Another crucial factor in defining an open container is where the container is located when the stop is made. If the container is in the passenger area of the motor vehicle or in the unlocked glove compartment, possession can be proved. If the open container of alcohol is in the trunk of the car, in a location not easily accessible when the car is being driven, or in a locked glove compartment, there is no violation of an open container law.
What’s “location” have to do with it?
Baton Rouge and other local cities prohibit possession of an open container on a public street. Section 13:1018 of the local ordinance code makes it illegal to consume alcohol in public in any zone designated as “alcohol free.”  That’s most of the city.  Certain exceptions are made for public and special events.
To be cited for an open container violation in a vehicle, the car or truck in which you are traveling must be on a public road or a right of way. Vehicles in private areas are exempt from this law. You could still be charged with violating the Pubic Drinking Prohibited statue, however, if you are in a private drive or parking lot.
While most vehicles that move on motorized power are considered covered by this law, vehicles that move on rails, plus self-contained motor homes longer than 21 feet are exempt from this law. Passengers in courtesy vehicles and limousines driven by someone possessing a Class D commercial license are also exempt from open container laws.
How protected are you from police action?
Law enforcement agents cannot stop and check a vehicle, solely because the driver or passenger is in possession of a cup or container with a beverage.  If the beer or alcohol is in plain sight, however, the officer can issue a citation or make an arrest.
What are the penalties?
While not as severe as for drunk driving convictions, “open container in a vehicle” violations are fairly severely penalized. Most violations are handled with a fine and community service.  A judge can also order an alcohol awareness class. 

“Public Drinking Prohibited” violations are less serious.  The Baton Rouge statute allows for a fine of up to $500, along with up to eight hours of community service. In rare instances, the judge can impose a jail sentence.
Written By: Benjamin Roussey

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