St. Patrick’s Day is approaching! While for some this holiday brings about green outfits or corned beef and cabbage, college students may consider celebrating quite differently. For hundreds of thousands of college-aged students in Florida, St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect excuse for pool parties, parades and drinking in public.
Set right in the middle of March, St. Patrick’s Day conveniently falls right around Spring Break. With more days of beautiful weather and summer vacation in sight, this holiday can be the catalyst of a perfect storm.
Each year, underage students are arrested for consuming alcohol on this holiday. While the drinking still occurs, most students are well aware of the risks they are taking and the consequences. When it comes to drinking in public in the streets or at a parade, however, students are far less aware of the open container law.
Ignorance is not an excuse to break the law. It is important to know just what the open container law is in Florida. According to the Florida Statutes, an “open container means any container of alcoholic beverage which is immediately capable of being consumed from, or the seal of which has been broken.” In other words, if the alcoholic beverage is opened and you are in public, you may be in trouble with the law.
Depending on local ordinances, open container laws may be enforced if an open alcoholic beverage is possessed on a public street, sidewalk or even on private property, if you do not have permission from the owner. In Clearwater, for example, it is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages on a beach or public property.
Even if the college student is 21 years old, if he or she steps right outside of a bar with an open container, such as an opened beer bottle, he or she may be charged with a violation of the open container law. In addition, if a college student is drinking alcoholic beverages in his or her apartment and walks across the street to a house party, he or she may be charged.
Due to the increase in alcohol consumption on St. Patrick’s Day, there is typically an increase in law enforcement on duty in the area. Campus police, city police and even state police may be present. To avoid violating open container laws, do not consume alcohol if you are under 21 years of age and throw out your alcoholic beverages before leaving your apartment or the home or apartment of someone else. If you are invited to a party on private property, discard your alcoholic beverage before stepping outside. Do not carry an open alcoholic beverage on the street, public sidewalks or on private property that you are not invited to. Finally, NEVER drink and drive, do not allow your passengers to drink while you are driving, and check for empty open bottles before you start the car.
We want you to be safe this St. Patrick’s Day! If you or someone you know has been charged with an open container law violation in Florida or you simply want more information, do not wait to contact us.