Maine’s Open Container Law

The law and consequences for drinking and possessing an open alcoholic beverage in a vehicle in Maine.

In Maine, drivers and passengers are generally prohibited from consuming and possessing open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles. But drivers are typically responsible for any violations of the open container law—even if it’s a passenger who actually possesses the open container—subject to a few exceptions. This article provides an overview of Maine’s open container law, how the law applies to minors, exceptions to the law, and the penalties for violating the law.

Open Container Law

The driver of a vehicle on a public way is in violation of Maine’s open container law if the driver or a passenger drinks alcohol or possesses an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of the vehicle.

Alcohol. “Alcohol” includes “spirituous, vinous, fermented” or other alcoholic beverages that are intended for “human consumption” and contain more than .5% of alcohol by volume.

Open container. An “open alcoholic beverage container” means any can, bottle, or other receptacle containing any amount of alcohol that:

  • is open
  • has a broken seal, or
  • has had the contents partially removed.

Passenger area. For purposes of the open container law, the “passenger area” is defined as the area designed for the driver and passengers to sit while the motor vehicle is in operation. The glove compartment and any area that is “readily accessible” to the driver or passengers while they’re seated are considered part of the passenger area.

Public Way. A “public way” is a way owned and maintained by the state, county, or city that is open for the general public to use, including a right-of-way.

Exceptions

A driver is not in violation of the open container law in the following situations:

  • Open container of alcohol in the trunk. A driver or passenger can lawfully possess an open alcoholic beverage container in the trunk of a vehicle. If the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the open container of alcohol can be kept behind the last upright seat or in an area not usually occupied by the driver or passengers.
  • Passengers transported for a fee. A passenger can lawfully drink alcohol and possess open containers of alcohol in a vehicle designed to transport passengers for a fee. However, this exception doesn’t apply to passengers of taxicabs.
  • Passengers in living quarters. A passenger can legally drink alcohol and possess open containers of alcohol in the living area of a motor home, trailer, semitrailer, or truck camper.
  • Catering events. A driver or a driver’s employee can lawfully transport open containers of alcohol to and from catering events if the driver has a valid catering license.

Penalties

A driver who violates Maine’s open container law commits a traffic infraction, punishable by a fine. The minimum fine is $25 and the maximum fine is $500.

Under Age Offenders

In Maine, subject to some exceptions, minors are prohibited from possessing and consuming alcohol. Maine also specifically prohibits minors from transporting liquor in a motor vehicle.

Illegal transportation of liquor by minors. It is unlawful for a minor to knowingly transport liquor or permit it to be transported in a motor vehicle that is under the minor’s control.

Exceptions. A minor can lawfully transport liquor in a motor vehicle if:

  • it’s in the scope of the minor’s employment
  • it’s at the request of the minor’s parent or guardian, or
  • the liquor is placed outside of the passenger’s and driver’s area (such as a trunk or locked glove compartment), and the minor doesn’t have actual knowledge of its presence in the vehicle.

Penalties. A minor who commits an illegal transportation offense is guilty of a civil violation. For a first offense, the minor’s driving privileges are suspended for 30 days and the maximum fine is $500. For a second offense, the minor’s driving privileges are suspended for 90 days and the fine is $200 to $500. For a third or subsequent offense, minor’s driving privileges are suspended for one year and the fine is $400 to $500.

Multiple charges. A minor can’t be charged with both illegal possession and illegal transportation of alcohol. And a minor who possesses or consumes alcohol in a motor vehicle must be charged with illegal transportation rather than illegal possession.

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