Handcuffs with car keys and an alcoholic drink

Drinking in a Car

It’s not legal anywhere in the country to drink and drive, or to drive while under the influence of alcohol.

The rules of the road are in place to protect everyone on the road. When everyone follows the rules of the road, it’s easy to keep other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians safe. All it takes is one person to drive under the influence to put every person on the road at risk at any given moment. Getting caught driving under the influence of alcohol results in a DUI arrest, which might require a loved one to seek the help of bail bonds to help a loved one make bail and come home.

The process is devastating. Being arrested for drinking and driving often results in a driver losing driving privileges for a time, paying large sums of money, and many DUI arrests result in hours of additional community service. It’s not something anyone wants to experience, but it’s far better to end up in jail than to kill someone driving under the influence. What happens when a sober driver has passengers in the car with an open container? Is that legal, or are there legal repercussions for anyone found drinking in a vehicle? The law is clear in every state, but it’s not the same in every state.

What are Open Container Laws?

Open container laws apply to any vehicle with open alcohol in the car. While the law differs in every state that holds an open container law, the basics are similar. The law states there are no open containers permitted in a specific area of any vehicle, and no one in the vehicle is legally permitted to consume alcohol in the vehicle. Most states do not allow open containers in the front seat or back seat of any vehicle.

There are always exceptions, however. A couple who orders a bottle of wine with dinner is permitted to take what they don’t drink home. The bottle must be sealed in a bag by the restaurant, and the bottle must be placed in the trunk. Another common law is no empty open containers are permitted in the common areas of a car. Simply finding an empty beer can on the sidewalk and tossing it into the backseat to get it off the ground and find a trash can is illegal in most states.

The law varies state to state, and by situation. Person with a pick-up truck and no back seat might not have anywhere to put that open but sealed bottle of wine following dinner. This person might be able to put it in the passenger seat and get away with it, but someone with a large SUV might not receive the same courtesy.

States That Don’t Have Open Container Laws

There are several states as of 2016 that allow passengers to legally drink in a vehicle, or have some other form of open container law not mandated by the US government.

– Connecticut
– Delaware
– Virginia
– Missouri
– Mississippi
– Alaska
– Rhode Island
– Tennessee

Each of these 8 states allows passengers in any vehicle to consume alcoholic beverages at any time. In Mississippi, even the driver of the vehicle is legally able to consume alcohol while operating a vehicle as long as his or her blood alcohol level is under the legal limit. The legal limit everywhere is .08%. Anyone whose blood alcohol level is above that is considered drunk, and that person will be arrested and charged with a DUI.

In these states, anyone can have an open container anywhere. A police officer can pull over a drive with an open bottle of beer in the passenger’s hand and no one is in any legal trouble. These laws are designed to protect drivers, but passengers are free to do as they please.

Considerations apply in every state regarding open container laws. In a state with an open container law, people who are in the backseat of a limo are permitted to consume beverages. The same rule applies to town cars and other chauffeured vehicles in some states as well. Open container laws also apply to certain cities, too. The general rule of thumb is not to open containers in any vehicle unless a person is certain the law allows for this.

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