Bottle of beer in a man's hand while driving

What to Know About Transporting an Open Container of Alcohol

Guilfoil Law Group June 23, 2022

Unlike many states that have strict open container laws, when it comes to transporting open containers of alcohol in a vehicle, Missouri is one of the least restrictive states in the country. Currently, no Missouri state law makes it illegal to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. However, that doesn’t mean anyone can just drive around town sipping on their favorite cocktail. Missouri Revised statute states that “No person shall consume any alcoholic beverage while operating a moving vehicle.” Because this law only applies to the driver, it is not illegal for vehicle passengers to possess or consume alcohol while the vehicle is moving. 

At first glance, open container laws may seem simple. What makes open container transport tricky is the fact that many Missouri counties and cities prohibit anyone from consuming alcohol while driving. These local laws actually trump state laws. This means that you can be driving in one city/county and would be perfectly safe to consume alcohol as a passenger. Yet, the moment you cross a county or city border the act would be immediately illegal. 

At the Guilfoil Law Group, I have the knowledge, experience, and resources necessary to assist if you have been charged with a DUI. I understand how stressful a DUI charge can be, and I am here to help. I proudly serve clients in Kansas City, Missouri, including the counties of Clay, Platte, Jackson, or anywhere throughout Missouri.

Possible Penalties

Some drivers buy into the myth that if they are pulled over they can simply claim ignorance of local laws or just pass their drink to another passenger. Don’t take that chance!

An open container is defined as a container that is:

  • Able to hold a liquid

  • Completely or partially filled with alcohol or an alcoholic beverage

  • Unsealed or not in the same condition as when it left the manufacturer, warehouse, or store

  • Located within easy reach of the driver

Despite lesser restrictive open container laws at the state level, law enforcement officers observe carefully for impaired driving, and probable cause, and prosecutors take DUI and alcohol-related incidents seriously. 

Open container violations can enact fines that range from $50 to $500 and carry a jail sentence of up to 90 days. Penalties may be more severe for repeat offenders or circumstances where multiple infractions are in play. 

That said, Missouri DUIs and alcohol-related traffic incidents are handled at the state level. If a driver's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reaches 0.08%, no other evidence of impairment is needed for the driver to be convicted. For a first-time offender, a DUI conviction will carry a 90-day driver's license suspension. Second-time offenders will have their driving privileges revoked between one and five years, while three or more offenses could cost you your driving rights for up to ten years. 

In addition to the loss of driving privileges, convictions can carry steep fines, court-ordered programs, and jail time. Depending on the number of prior convictions, fines up to $10,000 may be imposed. Courts may also require the participation and completion of rehabilitation programs and the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on your vehicle. The IID requires a BAC test before the vehicle will start.  On top of all that, you may be facing a lengthy jail sentence of up to four years. 

Possible Defenses

Just because someone is experiencing legal trouble doesn’t mean they are guilty.  There are always two sides to a story and every person facing criminal charges deserves to have their rights protected. Defense options are available and with the help of strong legal representation, you may be able to avoid charges by arguing a plausible defense. Possible defenses include but are not limited to:

  • Unlawful stop or arrest

  • Invalid blood, breath, or urine test

  • The driver was not drunk

  • The driver was not driving

  • Driver needed to drive due to emergency

Skilled Legal Representation Can Help

If you have been charged with an open container or any other alcohol-related charge in Missouri, then contact me at the Guilfoil Law Group today. Even though you think you might be safe, an open container charge can have a lasting impact on your record. You have rights, and I want to best protect them. At the Guilfoil Law Group, I provide skilled legal representation and defense for alcohol-related charges. I understand open container laws and can identify the best possible strategies to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Take a step in the right direction and contact me today at (insert firm phone number).

Primarily based in Kansas City, The Guilfoil Law Group provides legal representation for alcohol-related charges throughout the state of Missouri. I also serve those in Clay County, Platte County, Jackson County, or anywhere in Missouri.