Tennessee Open Container Laws, Penalties, and Consequences

Learn about the penalties for an open container conviction in Tennessee.

Tennesse, like most other states, has laws that restrict drivers from having open containers of alcohol in their vehicles. This article covers the specifics of what the open container law prohibits, when open containers are allowed in vehicles, and the penalties for an open container ticket.

What Does Tennessee's Open Container Law Prohibit?

Tennessee law prohibits a driver from consuming or possessing an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle if:

  • the beverage is open and immediately capable of being consumed, or
  • the seal of the beverage has been broken.

Doesn't apply to passengers. Unlike the open container rules of most states—which apply to drivers and passengers—Tennessee's open container restrictions apply only to the driver of the vehicle.

Engine must be running for a violation. In most states, you can be cited for an open container even if the car is parked. However, in Tennessee, a driver commits an open container offense only if the engine is running.

"Alcoholic beverage" defined. Tennessee defines "alcoholic beverage" to include every liquid containing alcohol capable of being consumed by a human being. This definition excludes certain patented medicines.

What Are the Exceptions to the Open Container Law?

Tennessee's open container laws are intended to apply to the driver compartment of the vehicle. So the open container restrictions aren't applicable to beverages possessed by a passenger or in a closed glove compartment, trunk, or other "nonpassenger area" of the vehicle.

What Are the Penalties for Open Container Tickets?

An open container violation is a class C misdemeanor in Tennessee. A conviction will result in a fine of up to $100 but no jail time. Violators are usually given a citation instead of being detained but may be arrested if they refuse to accept the citation or if other circumstances exist that justify further detention.

Tennessee will not suspend or revoke the driver's license of a violator, but an open container violation will increase the driver's license penalties related to a subsequent DUI (driving under the influence) conviction.

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