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 come 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 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. It’s also crucial to note that in addition to roads and highways, the law applies to motor vehicles in alleys, as well as sidewalks.
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 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. 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.
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 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.