Driving under the influence (DUI) arrests and convictions are usually associated with drinking and driving; however, you do not have to be drinking or drunk for Florida law enforcement to charge you with an open container DUI, which still qualifies as a moving violation, carries a fine, and will likely increase your insurance premiums. The penalties are much worse if you have been drinking.
If you are currently in jail, have recently been released, or are seeking legal help for a family member, you should contact the skilled DUI attorneys at Meldon Law as soon as possible. Legal representation is your best chance of securing a favorable outcome in your case; an experienced attorney can advocate for you throughout the legal process and possibly help you avoid the most severe penalties associated with an open container DUI conviction. Call Meldon Law at (954) 334-1276 to schedule your free consultation, share the details of your arrest, and receive guidance going forward.
Meldon Law’s Results with DUI Charges
The skilled DUI attorneys at Meldon Law have represented clients in all types of DUI cases. Our commitment to helping our clients has resulted in charge reductions, penalty reductions, and dismissals in more than 100 cases. It’s impossible to guarantee a favorable result, as every case depends on specific facts and circumstances; however, Meldon Law’s defense attorneys will fight on your behalf to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
What Is an Open Container DUI?
Florida law defines an open container as “any container of alcoholic beverage which is immediately capable of being consumed from, or the seal of which has been broken.” If law enforcement officials pull you over for any valid reason and see an open container in your car, they can issue you a ticket and even arrest you. The simple presence of an alcoholic beverage in your vehicle justifies an open container DUI charge in Florida, but if you have been drinking and your blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration is above 0.08, it makes matters far worse.
Florida’s broad definition of an open container doesn’t speak directly to the application of the law. You should know Florida law also considers empty bottles or cans in your car as open containers, and the open container law even applies to vehicles parked in public places. When you transport alcohol, you should lock it in the trunk or the glove compartment.
Penalties for an Open Container DUI Charge
Penalties for an open container DUI charge vary depending on the situation. If law enforcement officials stop you and you have an open container in your car, but you weren’t drinking and driving, you are likely to get off with a traffic ticket for under $100 and a point penalty on your driver’s license. If officers notice an open container in your vehicle, it’s likely that they will ask you to complete field sobriety tests and submit to a breathalyzer. If you are charged with a standard DUI, you can expect harsh penalties, including:
- Fines. Your first DUI conviction carries a fine of between $500 and $1000; a second conviction will result in a minimum $1,000 fine. If you have two or more DUI convictions, expect a minimum $2,000 fine. If your blood-alcohol level at the time of your arrest exceeded .15, or if a minor child was in the car with you, your minimum fine will be between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on how many previous DUI convictions you have.
- Jail time. For your first DUI conviction, you will likely not have to serve jail time, beyond your initial arrest; although, a judge actually has the authority to order you to serve up to nine months in jail. If you are convicted of a DUI for the second time in five years, or of a third DUI in 10 years, a court may sentence you to up to five years in jail. Punishments increase if your case involves a high BAC or a minor in the vehicle.
- Suspension. After your first DUI conviction, Florida suspends your license for six months. After the second conviction in five years, you will lose your license for five years, and after the third conviction in ten years, you will lose your license for ten years. You will permanently lose your license following a fourth DUI conviction.
- Ignition interlock devices (IID). Depending on your situation, you might need to breathe into an IID to use your vehicle after a DUI conviction. After a second DUI conviction, offenders must have an IID installed on their vehicle; if drivers register any alcohol on their breath when they blow into the device, their car will not start. With each conviction, the required time for IID use increases.
Defenses Against an Open Container DUI Charge
If you have an open container in your vehicle, it’s difficult to defend on the basis of innocence which is why you should retain an attorney to defend you when charged. Whether you’re facing an open container DUI charge or a standard DUI charge, your lawyer may employ one or more of the following legal defense strategies and argue that:
- The police didn’t have probable cause to stop you.
- The police officer’s perception was wrong, and your vehicle actually didn’t contain an open container.
- Law enforcement failed to follow proper procedure when conducting any field sobriety tests.
- Law enforcement failed to properly calibrate or care for the breathalyzer, which resulted in a false reading.
- Law enforcement made an illegal arrest, including failing to read you your Miranda rights.
Hire a Skilled Fort Lauderdale DUI Defense Lawyer
If you or a loved one is facing an open container DUI charge, you need an experienced DUI defense attorney to navigate the legal system, protect your rights, and defend your freedom. If you retain the skilled legal team at Meldon Law, we will help you every step of the way. We can handle the details of your arrest, gather evidence, talk to passengers, review police reports, and advocate for the best outcome given your circumstances. If you live in the Fort Lauderdale area and are dealing with DUI charges, call Meldon Law at (954) 334-1276, or contact us online, for a free consultation and to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense attorney.