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Open Container Laws by State

Boozing it up on a Saturday night is surely not a crime. But grabbing that open bottle of rum and driving with it in your car can be a crime depending on where you live and it can even land you in jail. Open container laws ban the possession of open alcoholic beverages in vehicles by both drivers and passengers. It doesn’t matter whether you are drinking an expensive bottle of Zinfandel or a bottle of the infamous “Two Buck Chuck,” most states penalize having open containers in some manner. Below, you will find key information on open container laws by state.

Differences in Open Container Laws

The main difference in the law turns on whether a state has a complete ban on alcohol in a vehicle in compliance with federal guidelines listed below, or a partial ban which would allow passengers to have open containers, but not drivers. In short, 40 states and the District of Columbia ban both the possession and consumption of any open alcoholic beverage container in a motor vehicle.

What Is Considered an "Open Container?"

Open container laws prohibit the presence of any type of unsealed container that contains or contained an alcoholic beverage. They can include:

  • Bottles
  • Cans
  • Flasks
  • All other types of containers that hold alcoholic beverages.

Federal Laws

In 1998, Congress passed federal legislation establishing a program designed to encourage states to adopt laws that ban the presence of open containers of any kind of alcoholic beverage in the entire passenger area of a motor vehicle. Known as the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), it provides states with a financial incentive if they follow the federal standard banning all open alcohol containers anywhere in the vehicle.

Open Container Laws by State at a Glance

Below is a state-specific guide to open container laws. You may wish to speak with a lawyer to learn more about open alcohol containers in a public place other than your car. Also, remember that certain city ordinances or municipalities may have their own open container regulations, despite state law.

 

Laws Barring Driver’s Consumption or Possession of Open Containers in Vehicles

Can Passengers Consume Alcohol or Posses Open Container in Vehicle?

Penalty

Alabama

§32-5A-330: It is unlawful for a person to have in his or her possession alcoholic beverages in an open container in the passenger area of a motor vehicle of any kind on a public highway or right-of-way of a public highway of this state.

No

  • Class C Misdemeanor, fine

Alaska

§28.35.029: A person may not drive a motor vehicle on a highway…, when there is an open bottle, can, or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage in the passenger compartment of the vehicle.

Yes,
passengers in a vehicle may consume alcohol from open containers.

  • Infraction, fine

Arizona

§4-251: It is unlawful for any person to:

1.Consume spirituous liquor while operating or while within the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle that is located on any public highway or right-of-way of a public highway in this state.

2. Possess an open container of spirituous liquor within the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle that is located on any public highway or right-of-way of a public highway in this state.

No

  • Class 2 misdemeanor, fine of up to $750 and/or up to four months in jail

Arkansas

§5-71-212: A person commits the offense of drinking in public if the person drinks any alcoholic beverage:

  • in any public place
  • while on any highway or street
  • in any vehicle commonly used for the transportation of passengers, or
  • in or about any depot, platform, waiting room, or other public place.

Yes, in Arkansas, open containers are allowed in a vehicle, but the driver and passengers are not allowed to drink.

  • Class C misdemeanor, $100 and up to 30 days in jail

California

§23220et seq: (a) No driver shall drink any alcoholic beverage while in a motor vehicle upon a highway.
(b) No passenger shall drink any alcoholic beverage while in a motor vehicle upon a highway.

No

  • Infraction, up to $250 fine

Colorado

§42-4-1305: A person (including driver) while in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that is on a public highway of this state or the right-of-way of a public highway of this state may not knowingly:

1.Drink an alcoholic beverage; or

2.Have in his or her possession an open alcoholic beverage container.

No

  • Class A infraction, fine

Connecticut

§53a-213: A person is guilty of drinking while operating a motor vehicle when he/she drinks any alcoholic liquor while operating a motor vehicle upon a public highway

Yes, a passenger may possess or consume alcohol in a motor vehicle

  • Class C misdemeanor, $500 fine, imprisonment for up to three months, or both

Delaware

Tit. 21, §4177J: No person shall consume an alcoholic beverage while driving a motor vehicle upon the highways of this state.

Yes, passengers in a vehicle may consume alcohol

  • Infraction, fine

District of Columbia

§25-1001: No person in the District shall drink an alcoholic beverage or possess in an open container an alcoholic beverage in or upon any of the following places:

  • A vehicle in or upon any street, alley, park, or parking area.

No

  • Misdemeanor, fine and/or up to 60 days jail

Florida

§316.1936: It is unlawful … for any person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage or consume an alcoholic beverage while operating a vehicle in the state or while a passenger in or on a vehicle being operated in the state.
(b) It is unlawful and punishable as provided in this section for any person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage or consume an alcoholic beverage while seated in or on a motor vehicle that is parked or stopped within a road as defined in this section.

No

  • Infraction, fine

Georgia

§40-6-253: A person shall not:

1.Consume any alcoholic beverage; or

2.Possess any open alcoholic beverage container
in the passenger area of any motor vehicle which is on the roadway or shoulder of any public highway.

No

  • Infraction, fine not to exceed $200.00

Hawaii

§291-3.1;et seq:

(a) No person shall consume any intoxicating liquor while operating a motor vehicle or moped upon any public street, road, or highway.

(b) No person shall possess, while operating a motor vehicle or moped upon any public street, road, or highway, any bottle, can, or other receptacle containing any intoxicating liquor which has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.

No

  • Misdemeanor, fine not more than $2,000 up to 30 days jail, or both

Idaho

§23-505:No person in a motor vehicle, while the vehicle is on a public highway or the right-of-way of a public highway may drink or possess any open beverage containing alcoholic liquor.

No

  • Misdemeanor (Driver) – 6 months Jail; and/or $1,000 Fine
  • Infraction (Passengers) – Fine of up to $100

Illinois

§5/11-502: No driver or passenger may transport, carry, possess or have any alcoholic liquor within the passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this state except in the original container and with the seal unbroken.

No

First offense, infraction. If there is a second offense within one year, the driver’s license will be suspended for one year.

Indiana

§9-30-15-1et seq: A person in a motor vehicle who, while the motor vehicle is in operation or while the motor vehicle is located on the right-of-way of a public highway, possesses a container:

1.that has been opened;

2.that has a broken seal; or

3.from which some of the contents have been removed; in the passenger compartment of the motor vehicle commits an infraction

No

  • Class C infraction, driver who knowingly consumes alcohol while driving on a public highway is subject to Class B infraction penalties

Iowa

§321.284: A driver of a motor vehicle upon a public street or highway shall not possess in the passenger area of the motor vehicle an open or unsealed bottle, can, jar, or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage.

No

  • Simple misdemeanor, $100 fine for a passenger convicted under the open container law, DMV cannot include the violation on the person's driving record and cannot consider it in any proceeding related to the person's driving license.

Kansas

§8-1599: No person shall transport in any vehicle upon a highway or street any alcoholic beverage.

No

Open container: misdemeanor, up to $200 fine, up to six months jail, or both

  • 2ndor subsequent offense, one year license suspension in addition to any other penalty the judge orders, or, in lieu of suspension, any other court imposed conditions on driving privilege for up to one year.

Consumption: misdemeanor, at least $50 and up to $200, up to six months jail , or both

Kentucky

§189.530: A person is guilty of possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in a motor vehicle, when he or she has in his or her possession an open alcoholic beverage container in the passenger area of a motor vehicle located on a public highway or on the right-of-way of a public highway.

No

Open container:

  • A fine of at least $35 but no more than $100, jail of at least 30 days but no more than 12 months, or both.

Consumption:

  • 1stand 2ndoffense: $25
  • 3rdand subsequent offense within 12 months: a fine of at least $25 but no more than $100, jail of at least five but no more than 90 days, or both.

Louisiana

§32:300: It shall be unlawful for the operator of a motor vehicle or the passenger in or on a motor vehicle, while the motor vehicle is operated on a public highway or right-of-way, to possess an open alcoholic beverage container, or to consume an alcoholic beverage, in the passenger area of a motor vehicle.

No

  • Infraction, fine of not more than $100

Maine

Tit. 29-A, §2112-A: The operator of a vehicle on a public way is in violation of this section if the operator or a passenger in the passenger area of the vehicle:

1. Consumes alcohol; or

2. Possesses an open alcoholic beverage container.

No

  • Traffic infraction against the driver only (fine of $25-50), regardless of whether driver or passenger possessed/consumed the alcohol.

Maryland

§10-123et seq: Both possession and consumption prohibited; an occupant of a motor vehicle may not possess an open container that contains any amount of an alcoholic beverage in a passenger area of a motor vehicle on a highway.

No

  • Infraction, Up to $25 plus court costs of $5 as a (civil offense and not a moving or traffic violation

Massachusetts

ch. 90, §24I: Whoever, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access, or upon any way or in any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, possesses an open container of alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of any motor vehicle shall be punished.

No

  • Infraction, by a fine $100-$500.

Michigan

§257.624a: ;A person who is an operator or occupant shall not transport or possess alcoholic liquor in a container that is open or uncapped or upon which the seal is broken within the passenger area of a vehicle upon a highway, or within the passenger area of a moving vehicle in any place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles, in this state.

No

  • Open container: misdemeanor, fine up to $100, up to 90 days jail, or both; and two license points
  • Consumption: misdemeanor, fine up to $500, up to six months jail, or both

Minnesota

§169A.35
Subd. 2
: It is a crime for a person to drink or consume an alcoholic beverage, distilled spirit, or 3.2 percent malt liquor in a motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon a street or highway.

No

  • Misdemeanor, fine up to $1,000, up to 90 days jail, or both

Mississippi

No statute prohibiting. Driver must stay below 0.08 percent blood alcohol content.

Yes

  • N/A

Missouri

§577.017: No person shall consume any alcoholic beverage while operating a moving motor vehicle upon the highways

Yes, passengers may possess and consume alcohol.

  • Infraction with a fine and shall not be reflected on any records maintained by the department of revenue.

Montana

§61-8-460et seq.: A person commits the offense of unlawful possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in a motor vehicle if the person knowingly possesses an open alcoholic beverage container within the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a highway.

No

  • Up to $100, but a violation cannot be charged against a person's driving record

Nebraska

§60-6,211.08: It is unlawful for any person in the passenger area of a motor vehicle to possess or consume an open alcoholic beverage container while the motor vehicle is located in a public parking area or on any highway in this state.

No

Infraction:

  • 1stoffense: up to $100
  • 2ndoffense within one year: up to $200
  • 3rdand subsequent offense within one year: up to $300

Nevada

§484B.150: It is unlawful for a person to drink an alcoholic beverage while the person is driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle upon a highway. It is unlawful for a person to have an open container of an alcoholic beverage within the passenger area of a motor vehicle while the motor vehicle is upon a highway.

No


  • Misdemeanor, up to $1,000 fine, up to six months jail, or both; or 120 hours community service

New Hampshire

§265-A:44: No driver shall transport, carry, possess, or have any liquor or beverage within the passenger area of any motor vehicle upon any way in this state. No passenger shall carry, possess, or have any liquor or beverage within any passenger area of any motor vehicle upon any way or in an area principally used for public parking in this state

No

  • Infraction, $150 fine,
  • Driver gets additional 60 day license suspension for 1stoffense and up to one year suspension for 2nd;or subsequent offense

New Jersey

§39:4-51a:A person shall not consume an alcoholic beverage while operating a motor vehicle. A passenger in a motor vehicle shall not consume an alcoholic beverage while the motor vehicle is being operated. All occupants of a motor vehicle located on a public highway, or the right-of-way of a public highway, shall be prohibited from possessing any open or unsealed alcoholic beverage container

No

  • 1stoffense: Infraction, $200 fine
  • 2ndor subsequent offense: $250 or 10 days community service

New Mexico

§66-8-138:

  • No person shall knowingly drink any alcoholic beverage while in a motor vehicle upon any public highway within this state.
  • No person shall knowingly have in his possession on his person, while in a motor vehicle upon any public highway within this state, any bottle, can or other receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage that has been opened or had its seal broken or the contents of which have been partially removed.
  • It is unlawful for the registered owner of any motor vehicle to knowingly keep or allow to be kept in a motor vehicle, when the vehicle is upon any public highway within this state, any bottle, can or other receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage that has been opened or had its seal broken or the contents of which have been partially removed

No

  • 1stoffense: Infraction,$25
  • For 2ndor subsequent offense: Misdemeanor, up to $300 fine, up to 90 days jail, or both, license revocation of three months for 2ndoffense and one year for 3rdor subsequent offense.

New York

Vehicle & Traffic Law §1227: The drinking of alcoholic beverages, or the possession of an open container containing an alcoholic beverage, in a motor vehicle located upon the public highways or right-of-way public highway is prohibited.

No

  • Infraction, fine

North Carolina

§18B-401: Opened Containers. – It shall be unlawful for a person to transport fortified wine or spirituous liquor in the passenger area of a motor vehicle in other than the manufacturer's unopened original container. It shall be unlawful for a person who is driving a motor vehicle on a highway or public vehicular area to consume in the passenger area of that vehicle any malt beverage or unfortified wine.

No

Driver:Class 3 misdemeanor

  • 1stoffense: Up to $200 fine, up to 20 days jail depending on prior convictions, or both
  • 2ndor subsequent offense: Class 2 misdemeanor, up to $1,000 fine, up to 60 days jail depending on prior convictions, or both

Passenger

  • Up to $100 (infraction)

North Dakota

§39-08-18: A person may not drink, consume, or have in his possession, any open container alcoholic beverages, in or on any motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon a public highway or in an area used principally for public parking.

No

  • Infraction, fine

Ohio

§4301.62: No person shall have in the person's possession an opened container of beer or intoxicating liquor while operating or being a passenger in or on a motor vehicle on any street, highway, or other public or private property open to the public for purposes of vehicular travel or parking.

No

  • Open container: Minor misdemeanor, up to $100 fine
  • Consumption: 4thdegree misdemeanor Up to $250 fine, up to 30 days jail, or both

 

Oklahoma

Tit. 21, §1220: It shall be unlawful for any operator to knowingly transport or for any passenger to possess in any moving vehicle upon a public highway, street or alley any intoxicating beverage or low-point beer.

No

  • Open container: Misdemeanor, up to $500 fine, six months jail, or both and a $100 assessment payable to the trauma care fund.
  • Consumption: Misdemeanor, fine of at least $10 but no more than $100, jail of at least five days and no more than 30 days, or both.

Oregon

§811.170: A person commits the offense of violation of the open container law in a motor vehicle if the person does any of the following:

1.Drinks any alcoholic liquor in a motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon a highway.

2.Possesses on one’s person, while in a motor vehicle upon a highway, any bottle, can or other receptacle containing any alcoholic liquor, which has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.

3. Keeps in a motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon any highway, any bottle, can or other receptacle containing any alcoholic liquor, which has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.

No

  • Class B traffic violation, up to $300

 

Pennsylvania

Tit. 75, §3809: An individual who is an operator or an occupant in a motor vehicle may not be in possession of an open alcoholic beverage container

No

  • Summary offense, up to $300 fine, up to 90 days jail, or both

Rhode Island

§31-22-21.1: No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon the public highways with any unsealed alcoholic beverage container within the passenger section of the vehicle.

Yes

  • 1stoffense: up to $200, up to six months license suspension, or both
  • Subsequent offense: up to $500 fine, up to one year license suspension, or both

South Carolina

§61-4-110: It is unlawful for a person to have in his possession beer or wine in an open container in a motor vehicle of any kind while located upon the public highways or highway rights of way of this State.

No

  • Misdemeanor, up to $100 or up to 30 days jail

South Dakota

§35-1-9.1: Illegal for any person occupying a motor vehicle located upon a public highway or the right-of-way of a public highway to consume any alcoholic beverage or have a package or any receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage in that person's possession unless the seal of the original package remains unbroken or the alcoholic beverage is so removed from the passenger area of the motor vehicle that no occupant of the motor vehicle has access to it.

No

  • Misdemeanor, up to $100 fine or up to 30 days jail

Tennessee

§55-10-416: No driver shall consume any alcoholic beverage or beer or possess an open container of alcoholic beverage or beer while operating a motor vehicle in this state.

Yes

  • Class C misdemeanor, punishable by fine only

Texas

§49.031: A person commits an offense if the person knowingly possesses an open container in a passenger area of a motor vehicle that is located on a public highway, regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is stopped or parked.  

No

  • Class C misdemeanor, up to $500 fine

Utah

§41-6a-526:

(2) A person may not drink any alcoholic beverage while operating a motor vehicle or while a passenger in a motor vehicle, whether the vehicle is moving, stopped, or parked on any highway or waters of the state.

(3) A person may not keep, carry, possess, transport, or allow another to keep, carry, possess, or transport in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle, when the vehicle is on any highway or waters of the state, any container which contains any alcoholic beverage if the container has been opened, its seal broken, or the contents of the container partially consumed

No

  • Class C misdemeanor, up to $750 fine, up to 90 days jail or both

Vermont

Tit. 23, §1134:
  • A person shall not consume alcoholic beverages while operating or as a passenger of a motor vehicle on a public highway.
  • A person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway or a passenger shall not possess any open container which contains alcoholic beverages in the passenger area of the motor vehicle.

No

  • Driver: up to $25 fine for possession and up to $500 fine for consumption while driving
  • Passenger: up to $25 fine

Virginia

§4.1-309.1: Any person who possesses or consumes an alcoholic beverage while operating a school bus and transporting children is guilty.

Yes passenger may have open container, but can create a rebuttable presumption that driver was drinking

  • Class 1 misdemeanor

Washington

§46.61.519: Any open container of alcohol must be stored in the trunk of the vehicle. This includes beer, wine, liquor, and any beverage that contains one-half of one percent or more of alcohol by volume.

No

  • Traffic infraction, up to $250 fine

West Virginia

§60-6-9: A person shall not drink alcoholic liquor in a motor vehicle on any highway, street, alley or in a public garage.

Yes, but cannot drink alcohol. Can possess open container.

  • Fine of $5 - $100, 60 days jail, or both

Wisconsin

§346.935: No person may drink or possess alcohol beverages or inhale nitrous oxide while he or she is in any motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon a highway.

No

  • Fine of up to $100, but if driving a commercial motor vehicle, an additional penalty of $10 and an out-of-service order for 24 hours.

Wyoming

§31-5-235: No person shall consume, transport or possess any alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle while the motor vehicle is in motion on a public street or public highway

No

  • 1stconviction: Up to $200 fine
  • 2ndwithin one year of 1stconviction: Up to $300 fine, 30 days jail, or both
  • 3rdor subsequent within one year of 1stconviction: Up to $500 fine, six months jail, or both

Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through the enactment of new legislation but also through court decisions and other means. Contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state laws you are researching.

Get a Free Case Review Today

If you’ve been charged with a violation of an open container law, whether wine, beer, or whiskey, you’ll want to understand the laws of your state and how a conviction or plea to the charge will affect your future. To learn more, simply contact an experienced criminal law attorney in your area today. You can even get a free initial case review at no obligation.

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