I've recently had several people call in about getting ticketed for having an open container of alcohol, usually in conjunction with being arrested for DUI. Many of these callers have all said the same thing: "But my friend told me there were no such things as open container laws in Mississippi! They can't arrest me for that!" In doing some research for this post, I also found this article on Huffington Post, which may be where my potential client's "friend" got his information. And while I still caution you on using any legal advice or information given to you by your friend--unless, of course, your friend is a lawyer--in the case of open container laws in Mississippi, he might be right.
Now before you start erecting a drive-thru daiquiri stand or open a bottle of your nicest cabernet sauvignon for the drive home, pay attention: although there is no statewide prohibition against having an open container in a car or on a street corner, most counties and cities do prohibit open containers. If you are caught with an open container in these places, you can get be ticketed for it, even though there is no statewide prohibition against it. Not only do most cities and counties prohibit open containers in vehicles, but there are 34 counties in Mississippi that are completely dry when it comes to hard liquor and 36 counties that are dry when it comes to beer and light wine. If you are driving through one of these "dry" counties with alcohol in your vehicle, whether or not it's in an opened container, you could face penalties for mere possession of these intoxicating substances.
But let's say you are lucky enough to be enjoying a drink while driving in a location without open container laws. Are you completely safe? Probably not. It's legal to have a drink while driving, but only if your blood alcohol content stays below the legal limit. What's more, if a law enforcement officer sees the Bud Light can you're sipping from, he then has probable cause to pull you over and inquire about your alcohol consumption. (Mayo v. State, 843 So.2d 739). Which, as we all know, can then lead to a number of problems.
Open container laws or not, always have a designated driver if you have been drinking. Sobriety is the only sure-fire way to "beat" a DUI charge. However, if you are stopped on suspicion of DUI, remain calm and polite when interacting with the officer. Everything you do and say will be recorded or written in a later report. Decline to take the portable breath test, the field sobriety tests, and the Breathalyzer test if you are arrested. For more information on DUI Do's and Don't's, see Merrida's post here.
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having been charged with open container, DUI, or any other criminal offense, please call the attorneys at Coxwell & Associates so that we may discuss your options. Our lawyers have more than 30 years' experience in dealing with serious criminal matters, and we use our time, energy, and intelligence to help those facing a daunting legal system.