Driving While Drinking Under Virginia’s Open Container Law
Virginia Code §18.2-323.1 makes it illegal for a person to consume an alcoholic beverage while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway. This crime is charged as a Class 4 misdemeanor.
Presumption of Driver Consumption of Alcohol
Under the open container law, there is a rebuttable presumption that the driver consumed alcohol while driving if certain conditions are established. These three facts must be shown for there to be a presumption:
- There is an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of the car.
- A portion of the alcoholic beverage has been removed from the open can.
- The motorist shows signs that they are intoxicated.
An open container is a vessel containing an alcoholic beverage, except for the originally sealed manufacturer container. The passenger area of the motor vehicle includes the areas where a driver and passengers sit and any area within reach of the driver, such as an unlocked glove compartment. It does not include the following:
- The motor vehicle’s trunk
- The area behind the vehicle’s last seat, if there is no trunk
- A motor home’s living area
- The passenger area of a vehicle used for transporting individuals for compensation, like taxis, buses, vans, and limousines
Virginia Penalty for Driving While Drinking
If you are convicted of driving while drinking, you could be sentenced to pay a fine of up to $250. You might also be charged with DUI. The penalties for drunk driving could include a jail or prison sentence, fines, and your driver’s license suspension.
Were you arrested for driving while drinking or for DUI? Order our free book, The Virginia DUI/DWI Survival Guide, to learn what you can expect in your criminal case. Then call our Manassas office at 888-DUI-LWYR or fill out our convenient online form to schedule your free initial consultation today to learn how our skilled DUI lawyers can aggressively defend you so that you achieve the best possible outcome in your criminal case.