Louisiana’s open container law, R.S. 32:300, forbids the possession of open alcoholic beverage containers while motor vehicles are in operation. The law extends to passengers as well as drivers. The law is intended to cut down on drunk driving, but it doesn’t cover the legal troubles a Baton Rouge passenger recently had.

The 51-year-old man was charged with DWI, after a pedestrian accident. The defendant was not sitting in the driver’s seat at the time of the Saturday night collision. The intoxicated passenger allegedly wrested control of a Chevrolet Impala away from the driver.

Investigators said the front seat passenger seized and jerked the car’s steering wheel at a red light, because he was angry with the female driver. The man alleged yanked the wheel several times, which caused the Impala to swerve off the road and strike two men, hospitalized with serious but not life-threatening injuries. The car continued through a parking lot and crashed into the wall of a building.

A toxicology test showed the passenger’s blood alcohol content level was over 0.20 percent, two and a half times the legal limit. In addition to second-offense DWI – for operating the car while drunk – the man was also charged with vehicular negligent injuring, reckless operation and resisting and battery of an officer. Police said the defendant hit an officer in the head during the arrest.

Passengers, who don’t have direct involvement in a drunk driving accident, may face legal problems. Sobriety isn’t always a safeguard. In some states, under certain circumstances, passengers are blamed for permitting an intoxicated person to drive, particularly if the vehicle belongs to the passenger.

Criminal defense attorneys may be able to prevent defendants from suffering consequences for someone else’s poor judgment. Passengers who have been questioned by police, tested for sobriety or charged with an alcohol-related offense are encouraged to seek legal protection as quickly as possible.

Source: The Advocate, “Police: Drunk passenger grabs wheel, car strikes two pedestrians” Daniel Bethencourt, Aug. 18, 2014