One minute you are cruising down the coastline with some buds, the next minute, you have a cop in your face asking you to step out of the vehicle. Your friend/driver is being arrested for DUI, but you begin to wonder if you will be charged as well. First Coast Criminal Defense is here to clarify the possibilities so you are fully aware of the charges you could face.
Can a Drunk Passenger be Charged with DUI?
You may be wondering if passengers can receive a DUI charge, the short answer is no, a passenger is not a driver and cannot be charged with a DUI. The only time a passenger may be charged with a DUI is if he or she touches the wheel while the car is in motion.
Once a passenger touches the wheel (even to correct the driver’s steering) he or she becomes a driver in the eyes of the law. Therefore, a passenger who touches the steering wheel while intoxicated can theoretically be arrested for DUI.
If you are in danger of being charged with DUI as a passenger, contact First Coast Criminal Defense for a FREE consultation!
Open Container Law Florida
Open container laws state, “it is unlawful (…) for any person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage or consume an alcoholic beverage while operating a vehicle in the state or while a passenger in or on a vehicle being operated in the state.”
This law forbids anyone driving or riding as a passenger in Florida to have an open container of alcohol inside a moving vehicle.
Open container laws also state, “it is unlawful (…) for any person to possess an open container of alcohol while seated in or on a motor vehicle that is parked or stopped within a road.”
This law forbids anyone from having an open container of alcohol in or on a parked car residing on a roadway (this includes cars parked on curbs).
If you or another passenger have an open alcoholic beverage, you may be charged with breaking open container laws. An open container sentences, while not as severe as a DUI sentence, is still considered a misdemeanor in Florida.
While you may not own the open container, the police can charge multiple people with one container. That’s why you should never get in a vehicle with someone who is going to drink while in the car, even if you have no intention of partaking.
Penalties for an Open Container Charge in Florida
Open container violations in the state of Florida are not criminal violations: they are moving violations for drivers. While moving violations are not as serious as criminal violations, they can still lead to severe consequences. A driver charged with an open container violation is subject to receive 3 points on his or her license for a successful conviction. Additionally, insurance premiums will increase for anyone convicted of this violation.
Public Intoxication Charges for a Passenger
If you are drunk when the police pull over the driver, you could be charged with public intoxication. Highways and roads are considered public areas in the eyes of the law, which means that you and your friends are “in public” despite riding in a personally-owned vehicle. Therefore, officers have every right to charge you for public intoxication as a passenger in a vehicle.
Florida Underage Drinking Charges for a Passenger
Regardless of your seating position in the vehicle, the police will charge you for underage drinking if you are a minor and your BAC is over the limit (0.02%). As a passenger in a DUI arrest, the police will undoubtedly ask for your age and take your BAC.
Even if you aren’t drunk, having a BAC over 0.02% is enough to charge you with underage drinking. One standard drink has enough alcohol to put any person at a 0.02% BAC, which means not drinking is the only way to stay under the limit.
Choosing the Right Representation
Our firm is known for his experienced DUI and alcohol-related representation. An open container violation (and a potential DUI violation to match) can suspend your license and cost you time, money, and energy. This is why it’s always prudent to hire an attorney for any violation you receive!
Call us at (904) 474-3115 for a free case evaluation!