South Carolina’s Open Container Law

The laws and penalties for possessing and transporting open containers of beer, wine, and alcoholic liquors in motor vehicles.

South Carolina’s open container law generally prohibits possession of open containers of beer or wine in a motor vehicle, subject to a few exceptions. In addition to the prohibition on possession, South Carolina also generally prohibits transporting open containers of alcoholic liquors in a motor vehicle. This article provides an overview of South Carolina’s open container law, related laws, exceptions to the general prohibitions, and the penalties for violations of the laws.

Possession of Beer or Wine in Open Containers

It’s unlawful for a person to possess an open container of beer or wine in a motor vehicle that’s located on a public highway. However, the restriction applies only to beer or wine that contains .5% or more of alcohol by volume.

Exceptions

Trunk and luggage compartments. Beer or wine in an open container can lawfully be kept in the trunk or luggage compartment of a motor vehicle.

Parked vehicles during functions. The open container law doesn’t apply to parked vehicles in legal parking places during functions where law enforcement officers are performing traffic control duties.

Penalties

A person who possesses beer or wine in an open container in a motor vehicle commits a misdemeanor. A conviction will result in a maximum $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail.

Transportation of Alcoholic Liquors in Open Containers

In South Carolina, it’s also illegal for a person to transport alcoholic liquors in a motor vehicle if the cap or seal of the container is broken or has been opened. “Alcoholic liquors” include all distilled spirits containing any percentage of alcohol by volume.

Exception

Alcoholic liquor in an open container can lawfully be transported in a trunk, luggage compartment, or cargo area of a vehicle that’s separate from the driver’s and passenger’s compartment area. However, the luggage compartment or cargo area doesn’t necessarily have to be a closed trunk that’s accessible only from the outside of the motor vehicle.

Penalties

A person who violates the law prohibiting the transportation of alcoholic liquors in open containers commits a misdemeanor. A conviction carries up to 30 days in jail or a maximum $100 fine.

Transportation of Alcoholic Liquors in Vehicles for Hire

South Carolina law prohibits a driver from transporting alcoholic liquors in a motor vehicle that’s used as a taxi or other vehicle that’s used to transport passengers for hire. However, a passenger being transported in such a vehicle can lawfully possess alcoholic liquors on the passenger’s person or in baggage.

Penalties

A person who violates South Carolina’s prohibition on transportation of alcoholic liquors commits a misdemeanor. Alcoholic liquors found in the motor vehicle will be seized as contraband and sold. The vehicle will also be seized and forfeited. For a first conviction, the penalty is a minimum fine of $600 or six months in jail. For a second conviction, the sentence is a $1,500 fine or one year in jail. And a third or subsequent conviction will result in a fine of $3,000 or two years in jail.

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