When it comes to laws relating to alcohol, most people have a general understanding of what’s considered to be illegal — drinking if you’re under the age of 21 and driving under the influence comes to mind. But what about vague notions, such as open container laws? What do they mean? When do they apply? And, can you drink alcohol in a car if you’re a passenger? Knowing the answer to all these questions can save you a lot of trouble and money.
What are Florida’s open container laws?
Florida Statute section 316.1936 establishes the law regarding open containers in motor vehicles. It’s important to note that it applies to open beverages as well as those in which the seal has been broken.
There is, however, an exception to the broken seal rule. If you purchase a bottle of wine at a restaurant with your meal, and you’re ready to leave the restaurant while there’s still wine left in the bottle, you may transport it in your motor vehicle as long as you comply with the following requirements — the bottle of wine has to be placed in a bag or container that is secured. You also need a dated receipt of the meal and wine to be attached to the bag or container. Finally, the container must be placed in a locked glove compartment or in the trunk of your car. If your car doesn’t have a trunk, place it behind the last upright seat in your vehicle.
Can I have open alcohol in my car on private property?
Yes, you can have an open container if you are on private property in Florida. However, it’s crucial to note that in addition to roads and highways, the law applies to motor vehicles in alleys, as well as sidewalks. Even if your car is parked you can still be in violation of the law if your car is on.
Can passengers drink alcohol in a car in Florida?
For those who were hoping the answer to this question would be yes, we have news for you — Florida law specifically states that it’s unlawful to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage or consume alcohol while either driving or while a passenger in a motor vehicle. This prohibition applies even if you’re sitting in a parked car. You can only keep containers with a broken seal in your glove compartment — if it’s locked — or in the trunk of the car.
The only exceptions to this rule are if you’re a passenger in a commercial vehicle — such as a bus or taxi cab — or if you’re in a self-contained motor home that’s in excess of 21 feet in length.
Can I have an open container in an Uber?
No, you can not. Uber and Lyft drivers do not possess a commercial driving license, so for purposes of the open container law, you’d be in violation if you’re drinking while being a passenger in one of these services.
Can I have an open container when not driving in Florida?
Open container laws can also apply to having open alcoholic beverages when you are not driving. Depending on where you are, you can be cited for possessing an open alcoholic beverage while in public. Many beaches in Florida prohibit alcoholic beverages and you can face penalties if caught.
In Tampa, for example, you can not have an open alcoholic beverage in public unless you are in a select location on the Riverwalk, although there are still some conditions such as:
- You need to be between Tampa Bay history Center and Water Works Park
- Can not have more than two drinks
- You have to purchase from designated businesses
- Must be in plastic cups with the Riverwalk logo
- It must be between 11 a.m. and 1 a.m.
Be sure to read up on your local ordinances before trying to have an open alcoholic container in public.
What are the penalties for violating Florida’s open container laws?
A driver who violates open container laws will be found guilty of a noncriminal moving traffic violation, punishable by a fine of up to $90 for a first offense. If you’re a passenger, the penalty is a fine of up to $60 for a first offense. If you elect to fight the infraction and request a hearing, you would have to pay a fine of $500 if you lose in court. In addition, you’ll have to pay associated court fees and have three points deducted from your driving record. Note that these penalties are imposed by the State of Florida. However, Florida Statute 316.1936 also establishes that counties or municipalities may impose harsher restrictions.
If you do not accept your summons, additional misdemeanor charges may be applied or a bench warrant for your arrest may be issued. Additionally, if your violation resulted in death or injury, the offender will have additional penalties such as a higher fine, community service, or jail time.
If you got a ticket for an open container and were not at fault, let us help you
Understanding every instance of open container law is difficult. There are many factors that determine a person’s level of liability, and that liability could be diminished, depending on the circumstances.
At Carey, Leisure & Neal, we have over three decades of combined experience successfully representing clients involved in car accidents and other car-related cases. All of our attorneys are accessible and Board Certified in civil trial law.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.