Georgia’s Open Container Law

The open container law in Georgia and the consequences for consuming and possessing alcoholic beverages in open containers in motor vehicles.

Drinking alcohol and possessing open containers of alcohol is generally prohibited by drivers and passengers. However, Georgia’s open container law allows for several exceptions to the general prohibition. This article provides an overview of Georgia’s open container law, exceptions to the law, and the penalties for a violation.

Open Container Law

It’s unlawful for a person to consume any alcoholic beverage or to possess any alcoholic beverage in an open container in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that’s located on the roadway or shoulder of any public highway.

The open container law applies to drivers and passengers. However, when the driver of a motor vehicle is alone, the driver will be charged with violating the open container law if there are any open containers of alcohol in the passenger area.

Alcoholic beverage. An “alcoholic beverage” is defined as:

  • beer, ale, and other fermented beverages containing .5% or more of alcohol by volume that are produced from malt or any substitute
  • wine with at least .5% of alcohol by volume, or
  • distilled spirits in any form.

Open alcoholic beverage container. An “open alcoholic beverage container” is any bottle, can, or receptacle containing any amount of an alcoholic beverage and that:

  • is opened
  • has a broken seal, or
  • has had the contents partially removed.

Passenger area. The “passenger area” is the part of the vehicle that’s designed for the driver and passengers to sit while the vehicle is in operation. It also includes any area that’s readily accessible to the driver or passengers while in a seated position. However, the passenger area doesn’t include a locked glove compartment, the trunk of a vehicle, or the area behind the last upright seat if the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk.

Exceptions

Passengers in certain types of vehicles. A passenger can lawfully possess an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that’s designed and used for transporting persons for compensation and in the living area of a motor home or house trailer.

Unfinished bottle of wine. A restaurant licensed to sell alcoholic beverages can permit customers who have purchased a meal and consumed part of a bottle of wine to take the partially consumed bottle home. To legally transport one partially consumed bottle of wine in a motor vehicle, the restaurant must:

  • securely reseal the bottle
  • place the bottle in a bag or container that makes it visibly apparent if it has been subsequently opened or tampered with, and
  • attach a dated receipt for the wine to the container.

This exception also requires the person transporting the wine to place it in a locked glove compartment, locked trunk, or in the area behind the last upright seat if the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk.

Malt beverages. Malt beverages that are produced in private residences can be transported in a motor vehicle if:

  • securely sealed in a container
  • clearly labeled with the producer’s name and address of where it was produced, and
  • placed in a locked glove compartment, locked trunk, or behind the last upright seat if the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk.

Penalties

A person who violates the open container law in Georgia commits an infraction, punishable by a maximum fine of $200.

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