Open Container Laws Might Be Stranger Than You Think

If you’re old enough to drive, then you’ve probably heard that an open container — anywhere in your vehicle, and even technically closed — is enough to get you in legal hot water. Well, the truth is this: it depends completely on where you live. The biggest reason for the confusion is the difference between state law and federal law. In general, state law supersedes federal law, and municipal law supersedes state law. Sounds complicated? It is.

An open container is permitted in these states: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Keep in mind, that this law doesn’t necessarily permit a passenger to be drinking while the vehicle is in operation. Passengers may only drink in these states: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Mississippi might have the strangest (and most unexpected) open container law on the books. Believe it or not, the driver can drink an alcoholic beverage while operating the vehicle. Keep in mind that this is a state law, which means some communities might bar the practice altogether. And it’s always illegal by federal law. The safest course is to forego the booze — both legally and literally — until you’re safe at home.

Keep in mind that even when having an open container, drinking, or having a passenger who is drinking during the operation of a vehicle, the unfortunate driver who is pulled over will almost certainly be asked to perform a DUI test. It doesn’t take much booze to put you over the legal limit, so is it worth the risk? Probably not, but we’ll let you be the judge.

Some intoxication tests don’t work well and are not reliable. If you’re pulled over or charged with a DUI, we strongly suggest you find a lawyer who specializes in DUI law as soon as possible.

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