Open container and tailgating go hand-in-hand, particularly during the football season on The Ohio State University campus. While many people go “pre-game” at home or in a bar, some tailgate before and after home games. However, nothing kills a good college football game like being cited for open container or even arrested.
The first thing to understand is that Ohio has an open container law under Ohio Revised Code 4301.62. This states that no person shall have in their possession an open container of beer or intoxicating liquor in a liquor store, motor vehicle, or in any public place. Open container is a minor misdemeanor offense, which means it carries only a $150 fine.
To be charged with open container, you must have been carrying an open alcoholic drink in any of the following places:
- In a liquor store (unless it is a sample);
- Anywhere that has a permit, unless it’s authorized to sell beer or liquor for immediate consumption, it’s a convention center, it’s a sample, it’s a music festival or it’s an outdoor performing arts or orchestral performance;
- In any other public place; or
- In a car, whether moving or stationary, regardless of whether you are the driver or passenger, unless you paid to ride in a limousine and you are sitting in the back.
There is one exception worthy of discussion. A “public place” is defined as a space which anyone can enter freely, such as sidewalks, streets, and parking lots. This means that if you are tailgating in a parking lot, make sure it does not fall within the scope of a public place, or you will be cited for open container. A good rule of thumb is that If you had to pay to park in the parking lot, it is not a public space and generally open container laws do not apply. However, you are subject to that private entities own rules and regulations.
A common mistake people make is believing that drinking from an unmarked cup will prevent you from being cited for open container. This could not be more wrong. The law refers to an open beer or intoxicating liquor. Thus, if it is in a cup, it is definitely open and you will be cited for open container.
While most people think that a minor misdemeanor is not a big deal because it is only a $150 fine, understand that other consequences may follow. For example, if you are under 21 years of age, you will be charged with Underage Consumption, which is a 1st degree misdemeanor. Also, colleges and universities do not look kindly upon current or future students engaging in this behavior. Such a charge can result in discipline from the school or refusal to admit you as a student. Finally, if you are convicted or plea guilty, you will also have to pay hundreds of dollars in court costs.
A recent development, however, has expanded the areas in which open container is permitted. Gov. Kasich signed a bill on April 30, 2015 that allows larger Ohio cities and townships to designate districts as allowing open container. The idea is to allow entertainment districts similar to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. However, people would not be allowed to bring their own drinks; they must purchase them from a local store, restaurant, etc.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with open container in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charge. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your open container case.