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Tailgating and Alcohol: 5 Laws to Know Before the Party

It’s an American tradition to tailgate before major sporting events, like NFL games, college homecomings, and even high school games in some areas. People love creatively setting up their tailgate spot with food, games like cornhole, and of course, beer.

A tailgate can be a great time to catch up with friends and family before watching a game together, but there are things you should be aware of if you’re planning to drink at your next tailgate. There are some legal issues you could run into if you overindulge. We wanted to make you aware of them so you can plan ahead.

1. Public intoxication

Having a few drinks before a big game can be a lot of fun. Some tailgaters enjoy playing drinking games or try to drink as much as possible before entering the stadium to avoid paying a premium for a drink. While this is your choice, these activities can cause you to get more intoxicated than you may realize. Drinking a lot in a short time can easily lead to you drinking more than you can handle. In some cases, excessive drinking can lead you to become loud, destructive, or otherwise obnoxious. This type of behavior can result in a public intoxication charge. Even if you are lucky enough to avoid a charge, disruptive behavior may result in you being banned from the game.

Laws around public intoxication vary by state, but the penalties can include fines, probation, and community service. If your behavior leads to property damages, injuries, or fighting, you may find yourself facing jail time or additional charges.

2. Open container

These laws vary, but some cities and states have laws that make it a crime to consume open alcoholic beverages in your car or to drink alcohol on public property, like parking lots, streets, and sidewalks.

A lot of sports teams allow their fans to drink in the stadium parking lot during tailgate parties on game day. However, some people may tailgate in an unaffiliated parking lot, park, or other area and risk a citation. In other cases, simply crossing the street with your drink in hand could lead to legal trouble. The penalty for violating open container laws can include financial penalties and community service.

3. Minor in possession

Drinking underage is always a risk. You might think you’re safe in the crowd, but if caught, you risk legal penalties for yourself and the adult who provided the alcohol. State laws and penalties vary, but penalties may include jail time, fines, license suspension, court-mandated counseling or education, community service, and more. The person who supplied the alcohol may also risk more serious penalties. Often, many stadiums have security monitoring the crowd to look for underage drinking, among other things. It’s risky and the penalties are high.

4. Public urination

Tailgates often start several hours before the scheduled game, and with the number of liquids and snacks being consumed, using the bathroom can become urgent, fast. Drinking also impacts critical thinking, which might lead a bad idea to seem like a good idea. You might find yourself compelled to relieve your bladder outdoors instead of in a port-a-potty or public bathroom. This is risky behavior that could lead to legal trouble. Public urination is considered a misdemeanor in some states. However, others states consider it lewd and lascivious behavior, and offenders risk being placed on the sex offender registry. Being placed on the registry has serious consequences that last far beyond the initial incident. It’s not worth the risk. 

In addition to the charges related to the act itself, you could also be charged with public intoxication or disorderly conduct. Penalties may include fines, community service, jail time, and more.

5. Driving under the influence

This is one many will already be familiar with. Choosing a designated driver, taking public transportation, or calling a taxi or rideshare are all excellent ways to avoid drunk driving charges. It’s best to plan ahead so you’re not stuck in a compromised state without a clear method of getting home. State laws vary, but in most areas you will be facing jail time, license suspension or revocation, financial penalties, and more if caught driving drunk. You may also be required to install an ignition interlock device, and it’s likely your insurance costs will increase.

Plan ahead to get home safe

Planning ahead in the ways we’ve mentioned will always be helpful in avoiding legal penalties for drunk driving. However, if you are struggling with alcohol, a voluntary interlock device can also save you from making a mistake. Contact us to discuss your interlock needs today at 877-370-7308.