Flying Solo on Gameday
The X’s and O’s for avoiding a harsh game day penalty
By Alex HastiePublished September 1, 2012
Spaghetti and meatballs. Traffic and weather. Cheech and Chong. Football and Booze.
With fall upon us, it’s football season once again in Central Ohio, and football and beer have gone together in this town since my great-uncle scored the first Ohio State touchdown in the Horseshoe (true story). With the start of Buckeye football, hundreds of thousands of people descend on the area near Ohio Stadium every football Saturday. Most are imbibing in same way, shape or form.
But isn’t drinking in a public place illegal?
Yes. Yes, it is.
On a game day, several different law enforcement agencies team up to control the crowds and enforce state laws regarding alcohol (over)use and possession in public.
According to the Ohio Revised Code §4301.62, it is illegal to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage in public. Generally, an open container violation is a minor misdemeanor carrying a maximum fine of $150. These means jail time won’t be an option – as long as you don’t compound the situation by resisting arrest or being disorderly in some other fashion.
What is a public place? In the context of gameday this includes The Oval, parking lots/garages, sidewalks and streets. When you booze at your favorite tailgate spot this fall you will be committing a crime, according to Ohio law.
Look, I know we live in America, but an open container of alcohol in public is ILLEGAL.
Everyone got that? Good. So how do you avoid a trip to court?
Enter the Red Solo Cup (and good judgment).
Why doesn’t local law enforcement issue 100,000 tickets every Saturday? It’s simple: there are far too many people ignoring this law for them to cite everybody. Most people would argue it’s also not a good use of police resources to pester people for responsibly enjoying a few adult beverages.
The key word is “responsibly.” Generally, police look for indications of serious intoxication, general disregard for the open container law, and individuals causing other problems when considering whether to enforce open container laws. Police want you to show a modicum of respect for the law on football Saturdays.
When it comes to open container laws use common sense – easier said than done when we’re talking about consuming alcohol. Here’s some quick tips:
Don’t drink out of a beer can or bottle – put your drink in a Red Solo Cup; not a clear cup, not a pint glass and definitely not a blue cup. This is Columbus, not Ann Arbor.
Don’t make your party portable – finish up your Bloody Mary before you walk down Lane Ave.
Be a good citizen – don’t yell at opposing fans, don’t litter, don’t “act a fool”... you get the picture.
Drink responsibly – police will likely ticket someone who’s clearly intoxicated and appears to be a danger to themselves or others.
Many of the other actions that lead to an inquiry from law enforcement do carry the potential of jail time. If you are going to openly violate one law, it’s good practice to not violate others.
So what happens if you are stopped by law enforcement? The best advice is to be respectful, but don’t say anything that could incriminate yourself. You are under no obligation to admit your cup contains a gin and tonic. Don’t compound the problem by tossing your drink in the bushes or running in the opposite direction. It’s also best to remember that no amount of talking is going to get you out of the citation if the officer feels like citing you. The cop doesn’t care that you “never do stuff like this” or “my boss is going to be so mad.” If you get cited, politely take your ticket and call a lawyer. Don’t add to your problems!
Following this advice will generally lead to an arrest-free experience down at the ‘Shoe.
Lets get ready for the Urban Meyer Era and another glorious season of Buckeye football. Just put it in a Red Solo Cup first. Go Bucks!
_Alex Hastie is an attorney at Hastie Law Offices, located in downtown Grandview Heights. Hastie Law Offices focuses their practice on OVI/DUI defense and the firm’s liquor law practice, representing Ohio’s bars, restaurants and wineries. He can be contacted at (614) 488-2800 or www.hastielegal.com._