Are passengers permitted to drink alcohol in a car?

Everyone is familiar, or at least you should be now, that drivers are not permitted to drink alcohol while operating a vehicle. These charges are serious and could result in jail time. But are passengers permitted to drink alcohol in the car? Typically, passengers may not drink alcohol in a car but not because of the car is being driven ? this post will explore the rules governing alcohol in cars.

Passengers are prohibited from drinking in a car under “open container laws.” 43 states and the District of Columbia all have open container laws. These laws prohibit people from having open alcoholic containers in public venues like streets, sidewalks and cars. So these laws do not expressly prohibit drinking in cars by passengers but they do prohibit the possession of open containers. So the effect is to restrict passenger drinking in vehicles.

In fact, a driver could be cited for violation of an open container law if one of their passengers is drinking. Like most things, the driver is the ultimate authority in the car and is held responsible for passenger’s actions.

As of this writing, there are seven states that do not have open container laws: Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia. In these states a passenger may drink alcohol while a car is being driven, unless a local ordinance prohibits that action. In many of these states, local counties are “dry” or severely restrict the consumption of alcohol.

If you were arrested on a DUI charge then you may want to speak to a criminal defense attorney. Generally speaking, first offense DUIs are not that serious unless extenuating circumstances are present. That being said, you should not take these charges lightly. They could end up on your record and show up during background checks, like for employment or renting an apartment. You probably will want an attorney on your side to ensure that your rights are properly respected.