OPEN CONTAINER LAWS
Overview of Typical
The offense of
having an "open container" of ALCOHOL
inside the passenger compartment of your vehicle. Open container
laws prohibit the possession of any open alcoholic beverage
container and the consumption of any alcoholic beverage in
the passenger area of a motor vehicle. Since every state has
laws to prevent and punish
impaired driving, open container laws are considered by
police agencies to be an important tool in their crusade against
Federal "Strong Arm"
Tactics Force All States to Pass Some Form of Statute
Section 154 of 23 U.S.C. required that states have an open container law in place by October 1, 2000. States without this law would have a portion of their federal aid highway construction funds redirected into other state safety activities each year, beginning in Fiscal Year 2001. The redirected monies would go to the state's Section 402 highway safety program to be used for alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures or for enforcement of anti drunk driving laws. Alternatively, the state could elect to use the monies for the state's hazard elimination program under Section 152. All states passed some form of legislation, to keep highway money flowing to where it was needed.
Some states passed statutes that are extremely restrictive (i.e., you cannot carry any bottle, container or can on which the 'seal' has been broken) in ANY part of the vehicle that a driver could access (including the glove compartment). Others take a more sensible approach, and permit containers to be kept inside a locked glove box. Some states (e.g. Alabama), make the offense a minor offense with only a $25 fine. (See Alabama statute below).
Points May Be Assessed
Some states , (e.g., Georgia) add points to your license for driving with the open container in the car, while others (e.g., South Carolina) may even suspend the driver's license of underage drivers and underage passengers, where an open container is inside a moving vehicle.
License Suspension or
Each state's laws are different. To learn whether your license is subject to suspension or revocation, or whether you face jail time or other penalties, contact knowledgeable legal counsel in your state.
Ala.Code 1975 §
§ 32-5A-330. Definitions;
(a) As used in this section,
the following terms are defined:
(b) 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
(c) This section shall
not apply to:
(d) This section shall
not be construed to prohibit the transporting of alcoholic beverages
in closed containers.
(e) A person who violates
the provisions of this section is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor
and, upon conviction, shall be fined not more than twenty-five dollars
($25), and court costs shall not be assessed.
(f) The penalties provided
for violation of this section shall not constitute a moving violation
and shall not have any effect on the driver's license points.
The act which added this section is effective August 1, 2000.