West Virginia’s Open Container Laws, Penalties, and Consequences

Learn about the penalties for an open container conviction in West Virginia.

West Virginia law prohibits any person from possessing or consuming an open alcoholic beverage in a vehicle. An open alcoholic beverage is any receptacle that contains alcohol and:

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

This restriction applies to all persons inside the car—including the driver and passengers—and to any vehicle located on public highways, moving or parked.

Alcoholic beverage. West Virginia defines “alcoholic beverage” to include any beer, malt beverage, wine, distilled spirits, mixed drinks, and effectively any readily consumable beverage containing alcohol, including non-intoxicating beer.

Exceptions

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

Motorhomes and campers. Passengers in the living quarters of a mobile home or camper are also exempt from the open container law.

Areas of the vehicle. West Virginia’s open container laws are intended to apply to the passenger areas of the vehicle. So, the open container restrictions aren’t applicable to items in the trunk of the car or behind the back seat (if the car doesn’t have a trunk) as long as they are not readily accessible to the driver or passengers. Beverages in a locked glovebox or in a locked case behind the seat of a pickup truck are also permitted.

Fines

An open container violation is a misdemeanor in West Virginia. A conviction will result in a fine of $50 to $100 but no jail time. A person may be arrested for an open container violation but generally must be released (as opposed to being taken to jail) unless other circumstances exist that justify further detention.

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