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Understanding Open Container Laws in Florida

Whether you live in Florida or you’re just visiting, it’s normal to wonder, “Is there open container law in Florida?” The answer is yes; there are strict open container laws in Florida. A container of alcohol is considered open if the original seal is broken or the cap is open. If an individual is caught with an open container under certain circumstances, they could face criminal penalties.

Florida law makes it illegal to possess and drink from an open container in a vehicle, whether you’re the driver or a passenger. Along with the open container law about vehicles, there’s also an open container law in Florida walking scenarios, which makes it illegal to possess alcoholic beverages in public. While Florida’s open container laws may seem strict, they exist to keep people safe. With its open container laws, Florida aims to reduce occurrences of drunk driving and keep the public from being harmed.

What Constitutes an Open Container Violation in Florida?

The Florida open container law in vehicles makes it illegal to be in possession of an open container in a motor vehicle. More specifically, an individual could be found in violation of the law if they are:

  • Operating a vehicle
  • Sitting in a vehicle that is parked or stopped on a public road

Additionally, a driver is considered to be in possession of an open container if the container is not stored away in a locked area, like the trunk of the car. Therefore, even if the driver does not have the open container in their hand or their general vicinity, they could still be guilty of violating open container laws.

Most often, offenders are discovered during routine stops or at DUI checkpoints. Even if a law enforcement officer does not see the person holding the container or taking a drink, they could still be stopped if there’s a legal reason for it.

Penalties for Violating Open Container Laws in Florida

When a driver violates open container laws in Florida, it is considered a noncriminal moving traffic infraction and carries a fine of up to $500.

Person drinking a beer on the beach

Additionally, a conviction for violating the open container laws could also result in accruing driver’s license points, which could, in turn, lead to higher insurance premiums in the future.

Exceptions to Open Container Laws in Florida

While open containers are generally not allowed in motor vehicles, there are some exceptions to the law.

If you are a passenger in a commercial vehicle driven by a driver with a commercial driver’s license, you can consume alcohol. These vehicles include taxis, buses, and limousines.

You may also consume alcohol in the living area of a motorhome or recreational vehicle that is at least 21 feet in length or larger.

Additionally, under some circumstances, there is an exception for open wine bottles. It is common for restaurants to allow their patrons to take partially consumed wine bottles home. Therefore, if you have an open wine bottle you’d like to transport, it must be re-corked and stored in the trunk or locked glove compartment.

With the increase in the popularity of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, many wonder whether it is legally acceptable to drink while riding in a rideshare vehicle. However, because rideshare drivers do not possess commercial driver’s licenses, it is not legal for passengers to consume alcohol in Ubers and Lyfts.

Even with these exceptions, it is still worth noting that drivers may never consume alcohol while driving. Regardless of whether the law allows passengers to drink in a motor vehicle, drinking while driving is still illegal.

Open Container Laws in Florida and Passengers

Open container laws in Florida apply not only to drivers but also to motor vehicle passengers.

Possession has a different definition for passengers. While a driver can technically be in possession of an open container regardless of where it is around them, a passenger is considered to have an open container if the container is within their physical control.

Person opening a foamy beer on a Florida beach

Passengers can face penalties for violating open container laws whether the vehicle is moving or stationed at the time of the stop. Penalties for violating the law are similar to those for drivers, except it would be considered a nonmoving traffic infraction. Consequences involve fines of up to $500.

For a passenger to legally possess an open container and be able to drink, their situation must fall under one of the exceptions. If there is no valid exception, passengers face legal trouble.

What to Do if You’re Charged with an Open Container Violation in Florida

If you face charges for an open container violation, you may feel upset, confused, and unsure of what to do. However, don’t let your feelings and emotions get in the way of taking action and calling a criminal defense attorney.

When you meet with a defense lawyer, you can provide details and information about your case. Your attorney will provide valuable legal advice and guidance, explain your charges to you, and help you understand your rights and options.

Don’t wait to talk with a qualified criminal defense attorney if you’re charged with an open container violation in Florida.

Fighting an Open Container Charge in Florida

An experienced criminal defense lawyer has the knowledge of open container laws in Florida and the skills to fight the charges brought against you. They can create a strong legal strategy with the aim of a favorable outcome for you.

Several defenses to open container law violations exist, and your defense attorney can determine which one might suit your case. Some of the common defenses used for these types of cases include:

  • You didn’t know the container was open
  • The container was not full of an alcoholic beverage
  • The vehicle was not stationed or stopped on a public road

A criminal defense attorney will handle your case while representing your best interests. When you hire a skilled defense lawyer, your case is in the most capable hands.

The Denson Firm has years of experience helping clients charged with violating open container laws in Florida. If you’re in legal trouble, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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