Open Container Penalties
When one is referring to an open container law, this relates only to containers of open alcohol. A container may be a bottle, can, jar or any other receptacle that can hold any amount of alcohol. This may be wine, beer, spirits or liquor where the top is either open or a seal is broken and can be consumed by a person. Open containers also refer to any receptacle where alcohol has been partially removed.
The federal government has no bearing on open container laws. This is only handled at the state level and sometimes even at the local level (by a city, municipality or township). States receive benefits for complying with the federal government’s Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which is why 39 states currently participate in prohibiting open alcohol containers in public and in motor vehicles. As an incentive for complying with TEA-21, the federal government will give the state roadway funds. The seven states that do not comply with TEA-21 (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, Virginia and West Virginia) have a percentage of their roadway funds redirected to alcohol education programs each year.
Open alcohol container laws are enacted to keep people from drinking and driving. Depending on the jurisdiction, the person found in possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle will receive the ticket. Anyone who was found to have violated an open container law will face consequences. The specific penalties relate to the state and jurisdiction in which you live. In some states such as Connecticut, you could face up to a $500 fine and spend up to three months in jail.
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