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. If you do, it's likely you'll get a container violation. Intoxicating liquor isn't the only no-no. This law means 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 passenger's drinks from being open in the motor vehicle. (The one exception is that passengers in a limousine can possess and consume alcoholic beverages in the passenger areas of the vehicle.)
What is an open container?
The word “open” applies to not only open receptacles containing alcohol, 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.
You also can't put alcohol in a container that would normally be occupied by another liquid in order to conceal the contents. You're not fooling anyone. Throw away open alcohol containers on the premises instead of bringing them in your vehicle, or do the classy thing and leave remaining alcohol and beverage containers 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. Never bring open containers from alcoholic beverages in your car. It's also 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've been drinking at all, you shouldn't be transporting anything or anyone in a car. Period. Not on back roads, or public highways, or anywhere.
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). This is the best way to avoid getting a container charge for breaking open container laws. Have fun, and remember: no alcohol for the designated driver! Drinking and driving is dangerous and not what an Aceable licensee would do.