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Can an Open Container of Alcohol in a Car Lead to OWI Charges?

 Posted on February 08, 2024 in Medical License Defense

Blog ImageDrinking and driving is a serious offense, and it can have severe legal consequences. In Wisconsin, operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) is heavily penalized, and drivers can face fines, the loss of their driving privileges, and jail time in some cases. While most people understand that driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol is illegal, they may be unsure about whether they can transport alcohol in their vehicles. Specifically, does having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle automatically lead to OWI charges? An experienced attorney can provide guidance in these cases, helping those who have been arrested based on accusations of drunk driving or driving with an open container understand their options for defense.

The Open Container Law

In Wisconsin, as well as many other states, it is illegal for drivers or passengers to possess an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that is being driven on a public road. This law applies regardless of whether the driver is consuming alcohol or not. An open container refers to any alcoholic beverage that has been partially consumed or has had its original seal broken.

The purpose of the open container law is to deter drinking and driving. By prohibiting the possession of open containers within reach of the driver or passengers, this law is meant to prevent situations where drivers may be tempted to drink while driving.

Under Wisconsin law, if you are found with an open container of alcohol in your car, you may face penalties. In most cases, fines will apply

It is important to note that these penalties are separate from OWI charges. If a police officer who pulls a driver over finds an open container in the vehicle, they may take steps to determine whether the driver is intoxicated. If the driver exhibits signs of impairment such as slurred speech or impaired motor skills, the officer may ask the driver to take a portable breathalyzer test or field sobriety tests to determine whether they may be under the influence of alcohol. Based on these tests, their observations of the driver, or any other evidence, an officer may choose to arrest the driver for OWI in addition to charging them with an open container violation.

OWI Charges

A driver may be charged with OWI if a police officer believes that they have operated a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Wisconsin, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent. If tests of a driver’s breath, blood, or urine show that they are above this limit, they may face OWI charges.

A conviction for an OWI offense in Wisconsin can result in multiple types of penalties. These penalties will depend on whether a person has any previous OWI convictions.

Contact a Milwaukee, WI OWI Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with an open container violation, or if you are facing OWI charges based on an open container in your vehicle, it is crucial to seek legal representation immediately. At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP, our skilled Milwaukee OWI lawyers can assess the circumstances surrounding your case and build a strong defense strategy on your behalf. We will work diligently to challenge the evidence against you, ensure that your rights are protected, and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your situation. To schedule a consultation, please contact us at 414-271-1440.

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