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Can I drive my car with an open container of alcohol?

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2024 | Criminal Defense, Injuries, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Personal Injury, Traffic Violations |

Many people are surprised to learn that, even if they are not drinking, they cannot carry an open container of alcohol in their vehicle while driving.

Why? Virginia has a specific set of laws, commonly dubbed “open container laws,” aimed at preventing drivers and passengers of cars from carrying open containers of alcohol while the vehicle is in motion.

What is an open container?

An open container, in this context, is any bottle, can or other container that you or someone else opened, any container with a broken seal, and any container from which contents you or someone else consumed. For example, a half-empty beer can or an uncorked bottle of wine are both open containers.

How serious is this offense?

Driving with an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle is a serious offense. It is not merely a traffic offense for which you would get a ticket. It is much more serious than that and having a legal advocate work for you is vital in these cases.

This is an infraction because having an open container in your vehicle can be both distracting and impair your ability to drive safely, even if you do not take a sip.

Consequences of getting caught

If police pull you over and you get caught driving a vehicle in which there is an open container of alcohol, even if you are not drinking from it and even if you have no alcohol in your body, you will get into serious trouble.

Serious trouble means, among many potential punishments:

  • Having to pay fines
  • Facing license suspension
  • Facing jail time
  • Having a conviction on your record

By the way, having a conviction of this type on your record often leads to long-term circumstances, such as higher insurance premiums and possibly not passing background checks, if an employer, landlord or bank looks into your history and sees this offense on your record.

How to transport alcohol

The safest and smartest option to travel with alcohol is to keep it sealed and out of reach while you are driving. For example, if you are attending a birthday or anniversary party and gifting a bottle of champagne, make sure it is unopened and store it in the trunk.

It is not just about following the law, even though having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is illegal. Remember that these laws are in place to protect you, any passengers you may travel with and other drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

In conclusion, Virginia is strict regarding carrying alcohol inside vehicles and requires that any drinks you carry in your vehicle are out of reach and sealed. Your safety, your wallet and your future will thank you for complying with these laws.


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