open container can

All about open container laws

April 18, 2019

Ah, the wind in your hair, the radio up loud and a cold one in the console. Wait! Not so fast, there’s a law against having open containers while driving, right? Well, kind of.

In most states, there are laws that make it illegal for passengers and drivers to drink alcohol or have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. But there are a still a handful of states that don’t have open container restrictions for drivers. There’s another handful of states that don’t have open container rules that apply to passengers.

Common Open Container Rules

While all the states don’t have the same laws, there are some fairly standard open container laws. Generally, whether you are in motion or parked, the definition of “open container” is an alcoholic beverage that:

  • has been opened
  • has a broken seal, or
  • has had some of the contents removed.

Many states also add a clause about the types of beverages their percentage of alcohol (kombucha, anyone??). And by the way, these laws usually apply to other substances too such as marijuana (even if it’s legal).

Open Container Exceptions

But what about that half-drank bottle of wine the restaurant sent home with you? There are some common open container exceptions for instances just like that. Typically, open containers can lawfully be kept in an area of the vehicle that is not readily accessible to the driver or passengers, like a trunk.

In many states, passengers are allowed to drink alcohol and possess open containers in vehicles-for-hire such as limousines, RVs and party buses. Again, that assumes the alcohol is out of reach of the driver.

Why are there passenger laws? Because a passenger with an open container still brings the alcohol within reach of the driver, which as we said already, is not legal. So, don’t pop your airplane mini-bottles in the glove compartment either because it’s still considered “in-reach.”

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