Northeast Florida has lots of reasons to enjoy a beer or other alcoholic
beverage outdoors. Many people enjoy drinking at the beach, while tailgating
at a Jaguars game, or bar hopping on St. George Street in St. Augustine
or in Riverside and Bayside in Jacksonville. In reality, there are almost
as many different rules about having an open container as there are places
or reasons to have one. However, many local cities and municipalities
like Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach,
and St. Augustine have enacted ordinances making it unlawful to possess
or consume an alcoholic beverage in a public place.
The ordinances in different places focus on different aspects of possessing
or consuming alcohol in public. However, the general rule in all of them
is that it is unlawful to possess or consume alcohol in public.
In St. Augustine the city commission recognized that tourism is important
to the economy and so carved out an exception that people riding in a
horse drawn carriage around town can consume alcohol during their ride.
Possession and consumption of alcohol is also allowed in and around Everbank
Field during most sporting events. Just remember that the crimes of disorderly
intoxication and DUI still apply.
The punishments for violating an open container ordinance can be severe.
Most are classified as misdemeanor criminal offenses that stay on your
criminal record. In Jacksonville Beach, you can be sentenced up to 90
days in jail and/or fined up to $500.00 if found guilty. In Jacksonville,
the fine is only $50 and the maximum jail sentence is 30 days. However,
the adjudication of guilty cannot be withheld upon conviction meaning
that you will have a permanent criminal record.
Many people who are arrested for violating an open container law had no
idea they were breaking the law. However, whether the crime was committed
with intent or not, it is important to understand defenses to such charges
in order to avoid potential jail time (especially if this is not a first-time
offense), fines, and a permanent conviction on your criminal history record.
One defense that may be available is to assert illegal search and seizure.
This may apply if the alcoholic beverage is not obviously identifiable
(i.e. is held in a nondescript container), and therefore the officer may
not have the probable cause necessary to seize the beverage to verify
that it is alcoholic in the first place.
Knowing the local laws and how to best defend against a charge is complicated
and requires legal know how. The
criminal defense attorneys at Albaugh Law Firm are former prosecutors who can protect you
and your future. Call 904-471-3434 today for a free consultation today, or
contact us online. With offices conveniently located in St. Augustine and Jacksonville we
are here to help.