Can a Vehicle Passenger Drink Alcohol? Can I Have an Open Container in my Car?

States rules restricting drinking and possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

Most states have laws prohibiting passengers and drivers from drinking alcohol or possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. However, a handful of states—including Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, and Mississippi—don’t have open container restrictions on the books. And there are several other states—Tennessee, Virginia, and Rhode Island—that don’t have open container rules that apply to vehicle passengers.

Open Container Laws

Open container laws, of course, differ by state. But there are some similarities that many state laws share. Here are some of the more common features open container laws include.

Alcohol Open Container Rules

The open container laws of most states prohibit drivers and passengers from drinking alcohol or possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. Generally, a person can be in violation of the law whether the vehicle is in motion or parked. State laws typically define “open container” as an alcoholic beverage that:

  • has been opened
  • has a broken seal, or
  • has had some of the contents removed.

Many states also limit the definition to include only certain types of beverages and/or beverages that contain a minimum percentage of alcohol.

Marijuana Open Container Rules

In states where marijuana is illegal, it’s always against the law to possess marijuana regardless of its container. However, a number of states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use—including California, Washington, Colorado, Illinois, Vermont, Oregon, and Minnesota—have also passed legislation that restricts possession of open containers of marijuana in a vehicle. The laws of these states vary but generally mirror their alcohol open container counterparts.

Common Open Container Exceptions

All states that have open container laws also have exceptions to those laws. The exceptions generally fall into one of the two following categories:

  • Certain parts of all vehicles. Typically, open containers can lawfully be kept in the trunk of a vehicle or, if the vehicle has no trunk, in an area of the vehicle not readily accessible to the driver or passengers.
  • Certain types of vehicles. Many states allow open containers to be stored in the living quarters of a motor home. And lots of states also permit passengers to drinking alcohol and possess open containers in vehicles-for-hire such as limousines and party buses.

The laws of many states also contain an exception for transporting an open container of wine from a restaurant. However, these exceptions usually still require that the open bottle of wine be stored in the trunk or another area of the vehicle that’s not accessible to the driver or passengers.

State Open Container Laws

Driver Restrictions

Passenger Restrictions

Alabama

Yes

Yes

Alaska

Yes

Yes

Arizona

Yes

Yes

Arkansas

Yes

Yes

California

Yes

Yes

Colorado

Yes

Yes

Connecticut

No

No

Delaware

No

No

Florida

Yes

Yes

Georgia

Yes

Yes

Hawaii

Yes

Yes

Idaho

Yes

Yes

Illinois

Yes

Yes

Indiana

Yes

Yes

Iowa

Yes

Yes

Kansas

Yes

Yes

Kentucky

Yes

Yes

Louisiana

Yes

Yes

Maine

Yes

Yes

Maryland

Yes

Yes

Massachusetts

Yes

Yes

Michigan

Yes

Yes

Minnesota

Yes

Yes

Mississippi

No

No

Missouri

No

No

Montana

Yes

Yes

Nebraska

Yes

Yes

Nevada

Yes

Yes

New Hampshire

Yes

Yes

New Jersey

Yes

Yes

New Mexico

Yes

Yes

New York

Yes

Yes

North Carolina

Yes

Yes

North Dakota

Yes

Yes

Ohio

Yes

Yes

Oklahoma

Yes

Yes

Oregon

Yes

Yes

Pennsylvania

Yes

Yes

Rhode Island

Yes

No

South Carolina

Yes

Yes

South Dakota

Yes

Yes

Tennessee

Yes

No

Texas

Yes

Yes

Utah

Yes

Yes

Vermont

Yes

Yes

Virginia

Yes

No

Washington

Yes

Yes

Washington D.C.

Yes

Yes

West Virginia

Yes

Yes

Wisconsin

Yes

Yes

Wyoming

Yes

Yes

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