Transportation

Open Containers of Alcohol in Motor Vehicles

Laws that prohibit open containers of alcoholic beverages in the passenger compartments of non-commercial motor vehicles.

Policy Topics

View another policy topic by selecting an option from the following menu.

Variables: Open Containers of Alcohol in Motor Vehicles

  1. Possession and Consumption
    • The open container law prohibits the possession of any open alcoholic beverage container and the consumption of any alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of any motor vehicle that is located on a public highway or right-of-way.  State laws that prohibit possession without prohibiting consumption are also coded affirmatively because in order to consume an alcoholic beverage, an individual must first have that beverage in their possession.  Row or jurisdiction notes are included to indicate jurisdictions that prohibit possession of an open container only if done "knowingly".
  2. Passenger Area of Any Motor Vehicle
    • The open container law applies to the passenger area of any motor vehicle.  A law that permits the possession of open alcoholic beverage containers in an unlocked glove compartment is NOT coded affirmatively.   In contrast, in a vehicle without a trunk, a law that permits an open alcoholic beverage container behind the last upright seat or in an area not normally occupied by the driver or passengers IS coded affirmatively.   Some States allow bottles of wine to be resealed/recorked (see Definitions) and provide a specific exception for such bottles from the terms of the State’s open container prohibition.  States with such provisions are coded affirmatively for the Passenger Area of Any Motor Vehicle variable as long as all other criteria for this variable are met.
  3. All Alcoholic Beverages
    • The open container law applies to all alcoholic beverages.
  4. All Occupants
    • The open container law applies to all occupants of the motor vehicle, including the driver and all passengers.  The open container law does not apply to persons in the passenger area of buses, taxis, limousines, and other “for hire” vehicles, or in the living quarters of a house coach or house trailer.
  5. Any Public Highway or Right of Way
    • The open container law applies to a motor vehicle while it is located anywhere on a public highway or the right-of-way of a public highway. The law applies whether or not the vehicle is in motion.
  6. Primary Enforcement
    • The State provides for primary enforcement (see Definitions) of its open container law.