Given the significant focus of resources on drunk driving in Minnesota and across the U.S., most people would not be surprised that states have enacted other laws to help reduce the number of DWIs. One such law in Minnesota and many other states forbids occupants from having an open container of alcohol within a motor vehicle on a public street.
In this post, Minneapolis DWI lawyer Gerald Miller examines exceptions to the open container law and penalties for a conviction.
Exceptions to Open Container Law
Minnesota’s laws for open containers only apply to alcoholic beverage containers that are located in a place that is accessible to the driver and passengers inside the vehicle. If an open bottle of whiskey is in the trunk of the vehicle, this would not be considered accessible to vehicle occupants.
Even if it could be established that passengers riding in the vehicle consumed alcohol from the bottle during a recent stop, the owner of the vehicle would be protected from an open container citation if the bottle is placed in the trunk of the car after the lid is screwed back on the bottle.
If open alcohol containers must be transported in a vehicle, they should always be out of reach. While locking the bottle in the trunk might create a basis to dispute whether the bottle is near vehicle occupants, the best strategy to avoid a ticket is to lock the container in the trunk of the vehicle.
Some vehicles are not covered under Minnesota’s open container law. If the vehicle is a limousine or a bus hired by a third party, these vehicles are exempt from the open container law. While motorized boats and off-road vehicles are subject to DUI laws, these vehicles also are not covered under the Minnesota open container law.
However, the driver of any of these vehicles can still be arrested for DWI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or above.
Penalties for Violating the Open Container Law
The consequences for violating the open container law are fairly severe. A conviction will result in a misdemeanor record, and the offense is punishable by up to ninety days in jail and/or a fine up to a maximum of $1,000.
Under our state’s law, the owner of a vehicle is legally responsible for any open containers of alcohol within the vehicle, even if the owner has not been drinking. The owner of a vehicle can also be cited for open container even if he or she is not present in the vehicle when the ticket is issued.
Civil penalties also might be imposed for violations of the open container law. These civil penalties can be cumulative, meaning a person can be subject to both the criminal and civil penalties. Some consequences that might be experienced include a driver’s license suspension and significant increases in insurance rates, but many other potential penalties are possible.
Want More Information or Need Legal Advice?
If you have received a citation for open container in the Twin Cities or the surrounding areas of Minnesota, we invite you to speak to a Minnesota DUI defense attorney at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible.
The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start protecting your rights. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.