You know that drinking and driving is illegal, especially if you’re literally doing those things at the same time. Yes, you’re in big trouble if you decide to beer-and-steer in any of the 50 states. DWI penalties will increase for impaired drivers who have open containers in the motor vehicle, but the Open Container Law pertains to much more than this obviously illegal activity.
The Open Container Law
This law states that you cannot have any open containers of alcohol in your vehicle. No liquor, beer, or wine. It doesn’t even matter whether your vehicle is moving or parked somewhere! An alcoholic beverage cannot be in any seating area of the vehicle, meaning the laws also prohibit passengers from having open containers. (The exception is that passengers in a limousine can possess and consume alcohol.) The word “open” applies to not only open receptacles, but to any container that has been previously opened or has a broken seal. Obviously a Solo cup with beer sloshing around in it is illegal (and quite risky for your car upholstery). But re-sealed containers are still considered open containers by the law, so put down the plastic wrap. It won’t suffice to shove a cork back into a wine bottle or put the lid back on one of those fancy champagnes with the screw-caps (jk). Throw away open alcohol containers on the premises instead of bringing them in your vehicle, or do the classy thing and leave remaining alcohol with the party host.
Penalties for Violating the Open Container Law
Punishments for violating the Open Container law and having an unsealed alcohol bottle in your possession include jail time, fines, and community service. It’s not worth it! Don’t get into your vehicle with any type of alcohol container with a broken seal, and don’t let a passenger do it either. And remember, an open container can make a DUI charge even worse for a driver: vehicle impoundment, extended jail time, and loss of auto insurance. Never ever drink and drive. It’s the law.
How to Transport Alcohol Legally
Let’s start with a really important disclaimer. If you’re under the age of 21 years old, you should not be in possession of ANY alcoholic beverages, open or not.
If you’re 21 or older, learn the best way to get from A to B when you want to BYOB. Keep unopened alcoholic beverages in the trunk! Even if the bottles or cans are factory sealed, the trunk is a better place for alcohol than just setting it on the floor of the passenger side or in the back seat. No trunk? If you drive a pickup truck, feel free to keep alcohol in the bed of the truck as long as it’s at least two feet away from the cab’s back windows (where passengers could potentially reach it). Have fun, and remember: no alcohol for the designated driver! Drinking and driving is stupid.