Although enjoying a drink now and then is not against the law, traveling with an open container in the car is in most states. Generally, an open container is an alcoholic beverage, in a can, bottle or other receptacle, that has been opened or has a broken seal. Possessing an open container of alcohol in public is also prohibited in a majority of states.
Although state laws differ, common penalties for violating open container laws range from fines to jail time. In California, not only drivers but also their passengers are prohibited from having open containers in the car. The punishment for a violation is a fine up to $250. However, if the violator is under 21 years of age, the violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. In Florida, drivers receive a moving-violation citation and a fine between $73 and $90; passengers receive a non-moving violation and a fine between $43 and $60. If the violator is under 21, he faces up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. This penalty increases for underage repeat offenders.
Open Container in Public
Possessing open containers in public also has consequences. In Ohio, for example, possessing an open container in public is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $150. In Washington, D.C., the punishment is a fine up to $500, up to 90 days in jail or both. In Virginia, violators face a fine up to $250.
- National Conference of State Legislatures: Open Container and Open Consumption of Alcohol State Statutes
- Life Guard: Open Container Laws
- Men's Journal: Cities Where Public Drinking Is Legal
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: V C Section 23223 Possession of Open Container in Motor Vehicle
- Law Office of Gregory W. Fox: Open Container Laws
- Florida Senate: 2011 Florida Statutes, Title XXIII, Chapter 316, Section 1936
- University of Tampa: Florida Alcohol and Drug Laws
- Luftman, Heck & Associates: Open Container
- Jamison Koehler: Public Intoxication
- Photo Credit Robert Byron/Hemera/Getty Images
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