Arkansas’s Open Container Law

The open container law in Arkansas and the penalties for possessing open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle.

Subject to some exceptions, Arkansas prohibits possessing open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle. This article provides an overview of Arkansas’s open container law and the penalties for a violation.

Open Container Law

Until recently, Arkansas was one of a handful of states that didn’t have an open container law. In 2017, lawmakers made open containers in vehicles illegal. However, the law didn’t apply to parked vehicles and didn’t define terms such as “alcoholic beverage” and “open container.”

To avoid federal funding penalties, the open container law was amended. The revised version of the statute becomes effective in June 2018. The new law will prohibit possessing an open container of alcohol in:

  • the driver’s or passenger’s seat of a motor vehicle, or
  • an area of the vehicle that is readily accessible to the driver or passenger of the vehicle while the vehicle is located on a highway or public right of way.

An alcoholic beverage is defined as:

  • beer and any other similar fermented beverage containing .5% or more of alcohol by volume
  • wine with .5% or more of alcohol by volume, or
  • distilled spirits in any form.

An open container is defined as any bottle, can, or other receptacle containing any amount of alcoholic beverage that is open, has a broken seal, or has had the contents partially removed.

Arkansas’s open container law applies to vehicles “driven or drawn by mechanical power and manufactured primarily for use on a public highway.” This definition of motor vehicle doesn’t include a vehicle operated on rails.

Exceptions to the Open Container Law

An open container of alcohol can be lawfully possessed in:

  • an area outside of the passenger area of the motor vehicle (such as the trunk), or
  • a locked area of the motor vehicle, including a glove compartment or center console.

If the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, an open container of alcohol can be behind the last upright seat or in an area not typically occupied by a driver or passenger.

Generally, the open container law applies to both drivers and passengers. However, passengers can possess an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation. And passengers can possess an open container in a motor home, house trailer, or other recreational vehicle if:

  • the open container is possessed within the living quarters of the vehicle or within an area that is designated for passengers only, and
  • the open container is not readily accessible to the driver.

Penalties

Violation of Arkansas’s open container law is a Class C misdemeanor. The maximum penalties are 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

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