As every driver should know, it’s against the law to operate a vehicle while inebriated. As well as that, though, it’s also a crime to have an open alcohol container in your vehicle while you’re driving, even if you’re fully sober.
Though open container laws are controversial, an infringement can have serious consequences for a driver. If a police officer stops you and discovers an open alcohol container in your vehicle, you may be guilty of a misdemeanor offense.
In this post, we go into more detail on the Minnesota open container law and share some insight about how you can stay on the right side of the rules.
What Does the Minnesota Open Container Law Say?
Minnesota’s open container law, which applies equally to both the driver and passengers of a car, prohibits the possession of an open can, bottle, or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage. “Open,” in this context, generally means that the seal of the bottle has been broken, so you cannot get around the rule by, say, replacing a screw top on a bottle of wine.
The rule applies to every type of alcoholic beverage, including beer, spirits, wine, and 3.2 percent malt liquor.
Motorbikes and other road vehicles are subject to open container rules in the same way as cars.
However, motorboats are one exception to the law; it is not illegal to have or consume open drinks on a boat in Minnesota. However, it is illegal to operate a boat while inebriated. The same blood alcohol concentration limit (0.08%) applies to boat operators as the drivers of cars and other vehicles on the road.
Open container rules apply as long as your vehicle is on a public road, even if it’s not in motion.
Actual v. Constructive Possession: What Does It Mean to “Possess” an Alcohol Container?
Open container rules apply whether possession is actual or constructive. Actual possession of an item occurs when you physically have something in your possession, such as in your hand or within your immediate reach.
Constructive possession, on the other hand, occurs when you have the ability to exercise control over an item, even if it is not in your physical possession. In the context of open container laws, constructive possession exists where there is an open beverage in an area of the car normally used by the driver and passengers. This generally includes a car’s glove compartment, the spaces underneath seats, and storage areas on the inside of doors and on the back of seats. However, it does not include a car’s trunk.
Open container violations are strict liability offenses in Minnesota. This means that you may be held liable for having an open container of alcohol in your car regardless of whether you intended to do so or were negligent in doing so.
So, if you have an open container in your vehicle that you forgot about or that you didn’t realize was there, you may still be deemed guilty of an offense. The fact you weren’t aware of the issue is not a valid defense.
Working With a Minnesota DWI Lawyer Who Will Stand Up for Your Rights
The Minnesota open container law results in penalties for many of the state’s drivers every year. However, you shouldn’t give up hope just because you’ve been charged with an open container offense.
Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation about your case. We deal with all types of criminal matters, not just open container and DWI offense