Ohio’s Open Container Law

The open container rules in Ohio and the consequences for drinking or possessing an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle.

In Ohio, consumption of alcohol and possession of open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles is generally prohibited, with two exceptions. Violation of the open container law is a misdemeanor offense. However, the penalties are more severe for drinking in a motor vehicle than for possession of an open container. This article provides an overview of Ohio’s open container law, exceptions to the law, and the penalties for consumption and open container violations.

Open Container Law

Drivers and passengers are prohibited from consuming beer or intoxicating liquor or possessing open containers in motor vehicles. This prohibition applies when a motor vehicle is being operated or is stationary on any street, highway, or other public or private property that is open to the public for vehicle travel or parking.

Exceptions

Chauffeured limousine. A passenger of a chauffeured limousine can lawfully drink beer or intoxicating liquor and possess an open container if:

  • the passenger and/or a guest of the passenger pay a fee pursuant to a prearranged contract, and
  • the passenger doesn’t occupy the front seat of the limousine where the operator is located.

Opened bottle of wine. An opened bottle of wine that was purchased at an establishment licensed to sell wine is not considered an open container if:

  • the bottle is securely resealed in a manner that’s visibly apparent if it has been subsequently opened or tampered with, and
  • it’s stored in the trunk (or behind the last upright seat if the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk) or in an area of the motor vehicle not normally occupied by the driver and passengers, and not easily accessible by the driver.

Penalties

A person who violates the law by possessing an open container of beer or intoxicating liquor commits a minor misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $150.

A person who violates the law by consuming beer or intoxicating liquor in a motor vehicle commits a misdemeanor in the fourth degree, punishable by a fine of up to $250 and a maximum 30 days in jail.

Underage Offenders

In addition to fines, a driver who’s under age 18 and is convicted of consuming beer or intoxicating liquor in a motor vehicle may face a license or instruction permit suspension for six months to one year. Instead of a license suspension, the court can require the offender to perform community service work.

If the driver is 15 years and six months of age or older and hasn’t been issued an instruction driver’s permit, the offender is not eligible to apply for a permit for six months. If the driver is younger than 15 years and six months of age, the offender won’t be issued a driver’s permit until attaining 16 years of age.

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