Ohio Law F.A.Q, Part II - Road-Tripping with "Roadies"

Passengers' Perspective

To help fight the monotony of a long car ride some people turn to "roadies" for liquid inspiration. "Roadie" in this situation isn't a stagehand for a band, but instead is slang for what the law calls an open container (of alcohol).

Ohio Revised Code 4301.62 prohibits a person from "possessing an opened container of beer or intoxicating liquor" (yes, that means wine too) under certain circumstances, including:

  1. Being a passenger in a motor vehicle that is on any street, highway, or other public or private property open to the public for the purposes of vehicular travel or parking (emphasis added); and
  2. Being in or on a stationary motor vehicle on any street, highway, or other public or private property open to the public for the purposes of vehicular travel or parking (emphasis added).

There are two exceptions (sections D & E) to the above prohibitions.

  1. Clients, and guests of that client, of a chauffeured limousine, hired under a contract, that are passengers in the limousine (and not sitting with the chauffeur); and
  2. A previously opened bottle of wine that was purchased from a licensed seller, but only if:
    1. The bottle of wine was securely resealed by the permit-holding seller before the wine was removed from the premises;
    2. The bottle is secured in the vehicle so that someone looking at the bottle can tell if the seal has been tampered with or broken; and
    3. The bottle is stored in the trunk, or behind all the passenger seats if you do not have a trunk and is not easily accessible to the driver.
In short, if you are a passenger in a vehicle (that isn't a chauffeured limousine) enjoying a roadie, you're violating Ohio law and providing an officer with probable cause to stop the vehicle.

An open container violation is a minor misdemeanor. While this means that it does not come with the possibility of jail time, it does carry a maximum fine of $150 plus court costs and will show up on a background check as a criminal conviction.

Driver's Perspective

It probably goes without saying that drinking while driving creates significantly more legal issues for the driver than the passenger. Having a roadie while driving isn't likely to end with just a minor misdemeanor citation for open container-though that law is the same for drivers and passengers.

Ohio law prohibits a driver from possessing an open container of beer or intoxicating liquor while operating or parked in his or her vehicle while on any street, highway, or other public or private property open to the public for the purposes of vehicular travel or parking (emphasis added). A driver of a vehicle may also be cited for an open container if they have a previously opened, though now resealed, wine bottle within his or her reach in the passenger compartment of the vehicle. In other words, store your leftover wine in the trunk, or behind the last passenger seat in the vehicle if you don't have a trunk.

The negative impact of a minor misdemeanor conviction for open container pales in comparison to the high risk and significant damage to your record of being investigated for and charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated (Ohio's OVI/DUI charge). Drinking alcohol while driving does not, necessarily, violate R.C. 4511.19 if you are not appreciably impaired while driving. But remember, you don't need to blow .08 or higher to be arrested for and convicted of an OVI in Ohio (see our FAQ on that issue here).

Even if drinking and driving-simultaneously-does not violate OVI law, it's still a violation of open container laws and will provide an officer with probable cause to pull over your vehicle. It's also likely going to lead the officer to investigate whether you're impaired through questioning, sobriety tests, and, potentially, a search of the vehicle. In the end, you may beat the OVI charge, but not before you are significantly inconvenienced, likely receive an administrative license suspension from the Ohio BMV, and end up with a criminal conviction on your record for open container. Just leave the roadie at the show.