There is an old joke that the most common last words are “Hold my beer and watch this.” Obviously, the words are spoken in jest, and drinking in moderation is fine for many people. However, there is no question that alcohol abuse or misuse plays a key role in many arrests.
When a person’s judgment is impaired by alcohol, it can lead him or her to make mistakes that never would have occurred during sobriety. For example, alcohol often plays a role in assault charges or domestic violence charges. Reports indicate that at least half of all campus sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim, or both. And although it is possible to get a DUI without alcohol if one is impaired by a controlled substance, the fact is arrests for driving under the influence most commonly involve alcohol.
Because alcohol can be dangerous if misused or abused, Oklahoma has several laws in place which govern the sale and purchase of alcohol, to whom alcohol may be provided, and where it may be consumed.
State law prohibits the possession or consumption of low-point beer or alcohol by anyone under the age of 21—unless that minor is in a private setting drinking under the supervision of his or her own parents. It is furthermore illegal for a person under the age of 21 to use a fake ID, misrepresent his or her age, or otherwise attempt to purchase alcohol. Under 37 O.S. § 246, a first offense of being a minor in possession of alcohol is a misdemeanor punishable by a $300 fine, up to 30 hours of community service, and driver’s license suspension.
Minors under 21 are not allowed to enter bars or liquor stores where the sale of alcohol is the primary function of the establishment. In restaurants with enclosed bar areas, minors under 21 are not allowed to enter that area.
It is illegal for any business licensed to sell alcohol to sell it to a minor. Selling alcohol to a minor could result in the loss of a business’s liquor license or permit to sell low-point beer.
Furnishing alcohol to a minor, whether a private individual giving alcohol to minors or a business illegally selling to minors, is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to one year in county jail.
Additionally, Oklahoma’s social host laws provide penalties for anyone who allows minors to drink on his or her premises, or who provides a place for minors to consume alcohol.
If a person in a public place appears to be impaired to such a degree that he or she may be a threat to the safety of self or others, police may arrest that person on a complaint of public intoxication.
Under 37 O.S. § 8, it is illegal to consume alcohol in public (unless at a public place licensed to sell alcohol), to be drunk in public, or to be drunk and disorderly—impaired to the degree that one “disturbs the peace” of another.
Public intoxication is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $10 to $100 and 5 to 30 days in jail.
Having an open container of alcohol in public is considered to be an indicator of consuming alcohol in public, and having an open container of alcohol in one’s vehicle is considered to be an indicator of drinking while driving.
It is against Oklahoma law (37 O.S. § 537) for any establishment licensed to sell alcohol to allow a person to leave the premises with an open container. It is furthermore illegal for a liquor store, convenience store, or other package store to allow a container of alcohol to be opened or consumed on the premises.
Under 21 O.S. § 1220, it is a misdemeanor to transport an open container of beer or alcohol in a moving vehicle. If a person has an open container, such as a recorked bottle of wine, that he or she wishes to transport home, the opened container must be stored in a rear trunk area or outside storage area of the vehicle that is inaccessible to the driver or any other passenger while the vehicle is in motion. Transporting an open container is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to 6 months in jail.
When most people think of alcohol crimes, the first offense that comes to mind is DUI, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Under Oklahoma law, a person may not drive a vehicle if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater. A person who appears to be impaired by alcohol can even be arrested for DWI—driving while impaired—with a BAC as low as 0.06 percent.
In order to close a loophole, Oklahoma law includes a prohibition against having actual physical control (APC) of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If a person is passed out behind the wheel of a car, he or she is not actually “driving,” but can still be charged with APC, which carries the same penalties as DUI. However, a person does not have to be so far impaired that he or she loses consciousness to be charged with this offense. A person with a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater who sits in his or her vehicle to stay warm while he or she waits for a sober ride home is considered to have actual physical control of the vehicle and could still be charged under this law. Learn more about Oklahoma DUI laws.
If you or your child has been charged with an alcohol offense, it is important to talk to an attorney about your case. Schedule a free consultation with defense lawyer Ryan Coventon to learn more about the potential consequences at hand and to discover strategies for fighting the charge.