Things You Should Know About Open Container Law

Opened Container LawEverybody wants a decent society to live in. We crave clean streets, educated children and a secure ambiance, which is why such measures like Open Container Laws in the United States are conceived. In the U.S. the presence of open containers of alcohol in certain public places is prohibited.

The concept of a public place is defined as a social place, indoor or outdoor, generally open and accessible to people. In this context, public areas such as sidewalks, parks and vehicles restrict the active consumption of alcohol. As a rule, bars and restaurants  do not fit in this category.

Generally, open container laws vary from state-to-state. The majority of them bans the presence of open cans, bottles or any other kind of containers of alcoholic beverages (such as beer can, wine bottle, flask, water bottle, etc.) on the streets, sidewalks, inside vehicles, on passenger areas, even if the containers are empty. The terminology of a vehicle applies to cars, trucks, or any other motor operated transit device. This law is issued in order to prevent drunk driving felonies (driving under influence, or DUI/DWI) or any other type of accidents; maintain the life quality of the neighborhood, and maintain fund subsidies for states. The open container charges are a category of alcohol offenses that include the transport of alcohol in vehicles, and are typically defined as possessing an open container of an alcoholic drink in the passenger area of a moving vehicle. It refers to beverages of all the types present on the cars located on public roads, highways or parking lots. The legal consequences and penalties alternate depending on the current laws of your state. Usually they signify criminal fines and/or short jail detention. Do not miss the fact that different circumstances may influence the penalties in a distinctive way. Also, if the crime is repeated, the punishment is respectively increased. The federal government established a special program in order to stimulate states to conform the Open Container Laws.


A total of 40 states conforms to Federal Standards, resulting from the TEA-21 Restoration Act. In order to be suitable for Container Law standards, the following requirement must be fulfilled:

  • Apply to all the alcoholic beverages;
  • Ban the possession of any open alcoholic beverage container and the use of any alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle;
  • Specify the passenger area of any motor vehicle;
  • Specify on a public highway or the right-of-way of a public highway;
  • Specify primary enforcement. Mention that the authorities have the legal right to stop the vehicle and enforce the Open Containers Law;
  • Apply to all drivers and passengers in the motor vehicle.

Opened Container Law Exceptions

Seven states – Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia prohibit the Driving while impaired, or driving under influence, but don’t restrict it to the passengers in the car. Here is a chart that displays the specific of Opened Container Law in each state.


Opened container law

  • You drove a motor vehicle;
  • You drove on a public road;
  • You held in your hand, kept within your reach a beverage container;
  • The seal on the bottle was broken, or the container’s contents were partially removed.

Even of your state doesn’t apply opened container law, the following behavior doesn’t fill in quality-of-life standards, and will be accordingly punished:

  • Public urination;
  • Loud behavior;
  • Arguing with police;
  • Unruly or destructive behavior;
  • Driving under influence.


  • The driver was a hired employee, as a taxi or personal driver;
  • The police had no probable cause to stop the vehicle;
  • The alcohol container was not open, in a place where it is legal to store containers in a car;
  • The beverage was not truly classifiable as an alcoholic beverage;
  • The car was not located in operation on a public highway or an area subject to regulation.

Alcohol related crimes require professional help, on the grounds that penalties might be very severe. Above all, an opened container violation may lead to other more serious charges. If you are a victim of a Drunk Driving DUI/DWI accident, or you are illegally arrested for DUI (i.e. the officer mistakenly cited you because the beverage contained no alcohol) consider searching for a professional attorney. Find a local attorney that will assist you with your case. All you have to do is access Legal Bistro (an online legal services community), and find out how to go through your alcohol crime case. Go to Legal Bistro, create your account and describe your case.

Note: You remain anonymous until you decide to reveal your identity to the lawyer you’ve chosen and it’s 100% free for consumers!

Here is a video that makes a clear explanation of what a DUI/DWI means. We hope that it will help you with your understanding of the concept.

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