How a tailgate party can lead to an arrest if you’re not careful

On Behalf of | May 1, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Tailgate parties are no longer just for football season. That’s certainly true in Florida where you can party with friends outside before a sporting event or concert all year long. If tailgating is allowed in the parking lot or wherever you and your friends have gathered, it’s legal, right?

Let’s put it this way: You should be aware of some alcohol-related laws. Here we’ll discuss a few ways you could potentially face arrest and criminal charges for tailgating – and how to avoid them.

Florida’s open container law

If you’re bringing alcohol to the event and/or carrying it home in your vehicle, the best way to avoid violating this law is to transport only sealed containers and keep them in the trunk. Under Florida law, an “open container” is one that’s “immediately capable of being consumed from, or the seal of which has been broken.”

Further, “An open container shall be considered to be in the possession of the operator of a vehicle if the container is not in the possession of a passenger [who cannot be consuming it] and is not located in a locked glove compartment, locked trunk, or other locked non-passenger area of the vehicle.” Note that localities may have stricter open container laws.

Drinking while you (and your keys) are near your car

Florida law states that a person can be considered to be driving under the influence if they’re in “actual physical control of a vehicle.” That can be open to the interpretation of a police officer. However, if you’re standing outside your car with your keys in your pocket drinking (and/or drunk), you could be considered in “physical control” of it and find yourself charged with an open container or DUI offense.

How do you avoid that at a tailgate party? You could give your keys to your designated driver (which you should have, along with nonalcoholic beverages). You can avoid attracting the attention of law enforcement by not being loud and aggressive or having anyone too young to drink around who can sneak a beer (or a few) and get you charged for providing alcohol to a minor.

If, despite your best efforts, or maybe because you weren’t aware of the law, you find yourself facing any of the charges we’ve discussed here (or others), don’t take them lightly. Your best first step is to seek legal guidance.