It’s football season, which means many Americans spend their weekends cheering on their favorite teams with friends and family. And one of best ways to celebrate the game is at a tailgate party — a perfect mix of company, food and drinks. Let’s walk through five laws that can affect you if you drink during a tailgate.
5 Laws You Should Know Before Tailgating
1. Public Intoxication
Football stadiums are packed on fall Saturdays, with many people partying both before and during the game as they cheer for their team. Many people play drinking games and binge drink during tailgates. These activities can get you drunk quickly, and if you have loud or destructive behavior, you can end up with a public intoxication charge.
Many universities have their own tailgating policies that outline the type and amount of alcohol you can bring to a tailgate in hopes to reduce binge drinking at these events. Check university policy before you head to your next tailgate.
Laws regarding public intoxication vary widely among states. If you’re convicted of public intoxication, you can face jail time, fines, probation and community service. Some states classify public intoxication as disorderly conduct, or disturbing the peace.
2. Open Container
States and cities have laws that dictate where you can drink alcoholic beverages. Open container laws may prohibit you from possessing or consuming open alcoholic beverages in your car and from drinking alcohol on public property such as in a street, on a sidewalk or in a parking lot.
Many stadiums allow fans to drink alcoholic beverages in their parking lots during a game-day tailgate. The problem is if you decide to start walking down the street or get in a car with an open alcoholic beverage. You are then breaking the law and can be charged with possession of an open container in a prohibited place.
Open container laws vary widely among states. Some states allow open containers in vehicles as long as you aren’t drinking, and some states even allow passengers to drink while in the car. A container is considered open if the seal is broken or the beverage is in a cup.
If you’re convicted of breaking an open container law, you can face fines and community service.
3. Minor in Possession
People under the age of 21 might be tempted to drink during a tailgate, but if they get caught drinking under age, they not only put themselves at risk of legal trouble, but they also put the adult who bought the alcohol at risk.
Minors aren’t allowed to purchase, possess or consume alcohol. They also aren’t allowed to carry fake identification that misrepresents their age and/or identity. State laws vary widely, and there are different types of underage drinking laws, all of which have their own penalties. You can face penalties such as jail time, fines, driver’s license suspension, court-mandated classes or counseling, community service or more.
4. Public Urination
Alcohol affects our critical thinking skills, and some people who have had several drinks might feel compelled to bypass the porta potty line and relieve themselves behind a tree or somewhere else. You take a risk, however, as you might get caught and arrested for public urination.
While some states consider public urination a misdemeanor, other states could convict you of lewd and lascivious behavior, which could result in being added to your state’s sex offender list. You could also be charged with public intoxication, public nuisance or disorderly conduct if caught urinating in public. Penalties for this crime could include jail time, fines, violations of city ordinances, community service and more.
5. Driving Under the Influence
It’s always a good idea to plan how you will get home after a tailgate, as you should never drive a vehicle after drinking alcohol. Most states have a blood alcohol concentration level of .08, with the exception of Utah, which has a .05 BAC level. If you’re pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence, you face severe consequences.
State laws vary widely, but penalties for DUI, DWI and OWI convictions may include jail time, fines, license suspension or revocation, ignition interlock device installation, court-mandated counseling and more. You may also be responsible for court costs and attorney fees and getting insured as a high-risk driver.
Stay safe - Have a plan in place
Tailgating is a fun way to celebrate football season and cheer on your favorite teams, but remember to drink responsibly and understand how your actions can affect you and others. You can still have a great party if you track how much alcohol you drink to prevent dangerous excess, and always have a plan to get home safely.