In most places, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your car. In this context, an open container is any container with alcohol whose seal has been broken, that is open, or that is only half-full of alcohol. However, as with many laws, there are exceptions to open container laws. For example, you may escape these charges if you can prove that:
The Open Container Wasn't Readily Accessible
The main aim for open container laws is to prevent driving under the influence of alcohol. This makes sense because it doesn't take much to jump from drinking while in a car to driving while intoxicated. However, the risk of this being the case reduces if the open container is not within your reach. That is why you may escape charges related to open container laws if the drink is not readily accessible from your location. A good example of such a scenario is if the open container is stored in the car's trunk.
You Were In an Excluded Vehicle
Some vehicles are excluded from open container laws. For example, some jurisdictions will allow you to have an open bottle of alcohol with you in the back seat of a limousine that you have hired to take you somewhere. Open container laws also don't typically apply to party buses as long as they are being legally operated. Again, the main reasoning here is that the risk of you driving after drinking is pretty low.
You Were On a Private Property
Many places also don't enforce open container laws to those who are on private properties; the laws only apply to vehicles on public properties. Therefore, you don't have to worry about open container charges if your car is sitting in your front yard and it has an open bottle of wine in the front seat. Another example of a situation in which open container laws don't apply is if you are on a picnic on private grounds.
You Were In an Excluded Jurisdiction
Lastly, you should know that open container laws are not universal; there are jurisdictions that don't have such laws. For example, there are places in Las Vegas and New Orleans where it's perfectly legal to have an open container of alcohol in your car. Note, however, that driving under the influence is an offense in all states, so you shouldn't drive after drinking even if the drinking part wasn't illegal.
As you can see, you don't have to plead guilty even if you are caught with an open bottle of beer in your front seat. Consult a DUI lawyer to help you figure out whether an exception applies to your case or explore other defenses with you.Share