Open Container Laws
As part of basic public safety there are regulations on open containers. Open container laws refer to anything regulating open alcohol containers in public or in vehicles. These are left up to states and local municipalities to legislate. Let’s more closely examine open container laws and the implications.
Open Containers in Vehicles
While the federal government can’t directly legislate open container laws they can create incentives for states to implement these laws on their own. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (Tea-21) sets out certain guidelines for states to follow in order to receive roadway funding. If the state fails to comply, a portion of the funding will go to alcohol awareness. All but 11 states have an outright ban on open containers in vehicles. Alaska, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wyoming have partial bans whereas Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, Virginia, and West Virginia actually allow passengers to drink.
Open Containers in Public
Since this issue is left up to the states, the laws and penalties are quite varied. Even so, possessing an open alcohol container in public is illegal for the vast majority of the country. A handful of exemptions exist in the following regions: the historic district of Savannah Georgia, the Power and Lights District in Kansas City, the Strip in Las Vegas, the French Quarter of New Orleans, and Butte Montana. All except Butte, Montana have some type of restriction on the container type or size.
Penalties for Violation
These are as varied as the laws themselves. For an open container in public, if there are no extenuating circumstances or prior incidents, the penalty may simply be a small fine. However, if you have been stopped for DUI and an open container was found in your vehicle you may face enhanced charges. Among all of these confusing laws and DUI consequences, one thing remains clear, if you’re unsure of the laws, play it on the safe side and leave the alcohol on the bar.
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