I would like to enquire if the driver or passanger of a vehicle can be arrested for having an open empty beer bottle in the car?
So for example: Both the driver and passanger are sober but there is an open, empty bottle under the seat or somewhere inside the vehicle.
There is no traffic legislation that prohibits the existence of empty (or even partially empty or indeed full) bottles or other containers of alcohol in a vehicle. BUT – read on.
There is however legislation the prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle if the driver is found to not have a blood concentration which is not lower than 0,05 gram of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or 0,24 mg of alcohol per 1000 ml of breath sampled. This is of course unless the driver concerned is a professional driver (one having a PrDP) in which case these are 0,02 gram of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or 0,10 mg of alcohol per 1000 ml of breath sampled. To remove all of the confusion, we have prevailed on the Department of Transport to set a zero alcohol “limit” so that people understand that it is a very bad idea to drink alcohol before driving.
These provisions apply to drivers, not passengers and although a drunk passenger can present a danger to a driver, there is no traffic legislation that prevents a sober driver driving a passenger who is under the influence of any intoxicating substance. I know what was said in the newspapers at the end of last year with respect to drunk passengers being liable to arrest at roadblocks etc. but that was illogical due to the fact that a designated driver is a perfectly logical and lawful concept. One just has to be careful that such impaired people do not interfere with the driver or that could have serious consequences on its own.
Having said this, open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle, wherever they are in that vehicle and regardless of whether they are empty or not is generally a bad idea for a number of reasons:
1. They usually smell horrible and can stink the vehicle out;
2. They can increase the suspicion that the driver of that vehicle may have been drinking prior to operating the vehicle, and most importantly
3. They can become dangerous projectiles in the event of a collision and can seriously injure the people that they hit, worsening the consequences of a crash.
The best advice I can offer is that alcohol should never be consumed anywhere near a motor vehicle in any case and if it is, then only by people who are not driving that vehicle. Their empties should be disposed of correctly and a vehicle should never be considered a substitute for a rubbish bin or a bar.
Don’t invite suspicion and trouble to your doorstep by driving around with empty alcohol containers in your vehicle since a traffic officer or policeman does not have to prove that you have been drinking when they arrest you, they only have to do so when the matter comes before a court. Being arrested, subjected to blood testing and detained is not much fun and it is even less fun when you are stone cold sober but suspected of not being so.
Have a look at https://www.jp-sa.org/video-rs3.asp for our standpoint on drink and/or drug driving.
National Chairman – Justice Project South Africa (NPC)
Note: There are by-laws in most municipalities that do not allow drinking in public. If they can see you through the window of a car the passenger may be prosecuted for that.