Getting caught driving while intoxicated, as every driver already knows, is one of the more serious traffic violations in nearly every state. It definitely isn’t easy to get out of a traffic ticket when the charge is related to drunk driving, and the consequences of a conviction can last for years on end and affect many parts of your life that aren’t even related to driving (like employment and housing opportunities).
But what many people don’t realize is that there are a few serious traffic violations that are related to drugs/alcohol and driving, but aren’t technically considered DWI offenses. Like every other traffic law, these laws vary from state to state and the severity of a conviction can also vary greatly. But for a brief overview of what we’re talking about, check out the points below:
- Prescription and over-the-counter drugs: A lot of people don’t realize that they can be charged with a DUI offense for driving under the influence of a drug, if that drug potentially inhibits the person’s ability to drive. There are tons of medications that fall into this category, but if you want to be safe, always check for any warnings on the medication’s packaging or prescription bottle; these usually state that you shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery after taking the drug.
- Open containers: If you’re driving on any public road and you have any opened container filled with any amount of an alcoholic drink (usually including bottles where the safety seal has been broken), you could be subject to an open container charge. These laws vary quite a bit from state to state, so it’s important to be familiar with the laws of your state. Sometimes the container has to be in the front passenger seat, sometimes it has to be within reach of the driver, and sometimes it can even apply to empty bottles or cans that once contained alcohol. Even if you haven’t consumed alcohol before (or while) driving, open container laws are usually considered misdemeanor traffic offenses.
- Drinking in a vehicle: Except in the state of Mississippi, it’s illegal for drivers to consume alcohol while operating a vehicle; most states also prohibit passengers from consuming alcohol if the vehicle is in motion (drinking in a parked car doesn’t count). In some states, the passenger and the driver can both be issued a citation/traffic ticket.
Remember — actions considered to be misdemeanor traffic violations in some states can be considered felonies in others, and all of these charges largely demand on circumstantial details. Ultimately, you can never be too educated when it comes to your state’s stance on alcohol, drugs, and driving. See this link for more references.