Florida’s Open Container Law

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

By , Attorney · Thomas Jefferson School of Law

With certain exceptions, Florida prohibits drinking alcohol and possessing open containers of alcohol in a vehicle. This article provides an overview of Florida's open container law and the penalties drivers and passengers will face for a violation.

What Is Florida's Open Container Law?

Florida's open container law makes it unlawful to consume an alcoholic beverage or possess an open container of alcohol while:

  • driving a vehicle
  • a passenger in a vehicle that's being driven, or
  • sitting in a vehicle that's parked or stopped within a road.

We'll go into a little more detail on these parts.

How Does Florida Law Defined "Open Container"?

An open container is defined as any alcoholic beverage in a container that has a broken seal or is "immediately capable of being consumed from."

On What Roadways Does Florida's Open Container Law Apply?

A "road" is defined broadly to include any area open to travel by the public, such as streets, highways, alleys, and sidewalks. The definition also includes all areas necessary for the maintenance of travel such as culverts, ditches, bridges, and tunnels.

What Does it Mean to "Possession" of an Open Container?

An open container is considered to be in a passenger's possession if it's in the passenger's "physical control."

A driver is deemed to have possession of an open container if it's not in the passenger's possession and not located in a "locked nonpassenger area" such as a locked trunk or glove compartment.

City and County Open Container Ordinances

The open container law in Florida specifically allows for counties and cities to adopt ordinances with restrictions on the possession of alcohol in vehicles in addition to those imposed under state law.

Can Passengers Drink Alcohol in a Vehicle in Florida?

Florida's open container law applies to vehicle passengers. So, generally (see exceptions below), passengers can't drink alcohol while in a vehicle.

Exceptions to Florida's Open Container Law

Florida's open container law has several exceptions.

Passenger Open Container Exceptions

Generally, the open container law applies to both drivers and passengers. However, the law does not apply to passengers under any of the following circumstances:

  • Passengers being transported in commercial vehicles. The driver holds a valid commercial driver's license and is operating a vehicle pursuant to a contract to provide transportation for passengers.
  • Bus passengers. The driver holds a valid commercial driver's license and is operating a bus.
  • Passengers in motorhomes (RVs). The passenger is in a self-contained motorhome, over 21 feet in length.

Additionally, the prohibition against possessing an open container and consuming alcohol in a parked vehicle doesn't apply to passengers if the vehicle is a motorhome or is used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation.

Restaurant Wine Exception

Another exception to the open container law allows for the transportation of a partially consumed bottle of wine in certain circumstances: A restaurant licensed to sell wine may allow a customer who has purchased a full course meal to take a partially consumed bottle of wine home. However, the wine must be resealed (re-corked) and placed in a locked glove compartment or locked trunk. If the vehicle doesn't have a trunk, the wine must be placed behind the last upright seat.

What Are the Penalties and Fines for Open Container Tickets in Florida?

The penalties for an open container violation depend on whether the violator is a passenger or driver.

Open Container Penalties for Drivers

A driver who violates Florida's open container law commits a noncriminal moving traffic violation. The fine is $60, plus court fees and assessments. The amounts of court fees and assessments vary by county.

If the driver elects to have a hearing and is found guilty of the infraction, the maximum fine the court can impose is $500.

In addition to fines and fees, an open container violation will add three points to the motorist's driving record.

Open Container Penalties for Passengers

A passenger of a vehicle who violates the open container law is also guilty of a nonmoving traffic violation. The fine is $30, plus court fees and assessments. The maximum fine is $500 if the passenger is found guilty after a hearing.

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