North Dakota’s Open Container Laws, Penalties, and Consequences

Learn about the penalties for an open container conviction in North Dakota.

North Dakota law prohibits any person from possessing an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle if:

  • the beverage is open or has a broken seal, or
  • the contents of the beverage have been partially removed.

This restriction applies to everyone in a vehicle that’s located on a public highway or parking lot—including the driver and passengers. North Dakota considers the owner—or driver if owner is not present—to be responsible for the vehicle. So, open containers possessed by passengers or unknown to the owner can still result in a citation against the owner or driver.

Alcoholic beverage. North Dakota defines alcoholic beverage to include any “liquid suitable for drinking by a human being” of at least .5% alcohol by volume. So, open containers of some non-alcoholic beers and other low-alcohol beverages might be permitted.

Exceptions

Certain vehicles. North Dakota’s open container law isn’t applicable to passengers riding in certain types of vehicles, including statutorily authorized limousines, taxis, and buses. Patrons inside the passenger areas of these vehicles are permitted to possess and consume alcohol.

Motorhome or camper. Passengers in the living quarters of a mobile home or camper are also exempt from the open container law. However, the living quarters must be separated from the driving compartment by a solid partition, and passengers cannot consume alcohol while the vehicle is moving.

Areas of the vehicle. North Dakota’s open container laws are intended to apply to the passenger areas of the vehicle—meaning, the open container restrictions aren’t applicable to items in the trunk of the car or, if the car doesn’t have a trunk, some other area not normally occupied by passengers.

Fines

An open container conviction in North Dakota will result in a fine of $50 but no jail time. Open container convictions against drivers will be recorded on that person’s driving record.

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