Louisiana Open Container Laws
Louisiana State Open Container Law
The Louisiana open container law at La. RS 32:300 states that it shall be unlawful for the operator of a motor vehicle or the passenger in or on a motor vehicle, while the motor vehicle is operated on a public highway or right-of-way, to possess an open alcoholic beverage container, or to consume an alcoholic beverage, in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. This is a misdemeanor offense. Let’s discuss what is included in this state law.
First, the motor vehicle must be used on a public highway or right-of-way which is basically a public road. So, if you like to drink in your parked car in your driveway, that should not be an open container violation under the Louisiana law.
What is “open”?
Second, the container must be open. What does “open” mean? It is considered an open container if it is open or has a broken seal or its contents have been partially removed. “Open alcoholic beverage container” shall not mean any bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains a frozen alcoholic beverage unless the lid is removed, a straw protrudes therefrom, or the contents of the receptacle have been partially removed. This applies to daiquiris. Once you put that straw in the daiquiri, it becomes an open container.
“Passenger area” defined
Finally, you can’t possess the open container in the passenger area, but what does “passenger area” mean in the law? “Passenger area” means the area designed to seat the driver and passengers while the motor vehicle is in operation and any area that is readily accessible to the driver or a passenger while in their seating positions, including the glove compartment. It shall not mean a locked glove compartment or behind the last upright seat, or any area not normally occupied by the driver or a passenger in a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk. So, in SUVs and crossovers, the storage area in the back behind the last upright seat is not considered to be a passenger area prohibited to have an open container. The reasoning is that the occupants can’t easily access that area to drink from the beverage.
Purpose Behind Open Container in Louisiana
The whole purpose of the open container law is to prevent people from drinking and driving. Believe it or not, many prosecutors and judges take open container in Louisiana seriously because it is so closely related to a DWI. The only difference is usually that the police officer didn’t believe the driver was under the influence of alcohol, yet. If you have a charge for open container in Louisiana and need a criminal defense attorney, feel free to call our lawyers at the location most convenient to you. We represent clients for Open Container in all areas of Louisiana.
New Orleans Open Container Law
Under New Orleans Municipal Code Sec. 54-404, individuals are permitted to carry open containers of alcohol within the New Orleans French Quarter, on public streets, sidewalks, parks, or public rights-of-way, provided that the container is not made of glass. This means you can enjoy your alcoholic beverage in the French Quarter as long as it’s in a plastic go-cup or bottle.
However, it’s important to note that the state of Louisiana enforces its own open container law, which makes open containers of alcohol illegal in vehicles throughout New Orleans. Outside of vehicles, Louisiana state law only prohibits open containers of alcohol to those under the age of 21.
Open Container in Vehicle
The New Orleans open container laws prohibit the operator of a vehicle who is on a public street from possessing an open container. Therefore, you cannot possess an open alcoholic beverage in your car in New Orleans pursuant to Municipal Code Sec. 54-407.
If you are coming to New Orleans to party and have a good time, just know the open container laws. If you are 21 years of age or older, you can walk around in public with an open container of alcohol as long as it is in a plastic cup or plastic bottle. However, you cannot get into a car with the beverage if the car is being operated. You need to throw the drink away before taking a ride.
Pulled Over with an Open Container?
If you’re wondering what happens when you’re pulled over with an open container, this article will explain what you need to know. Just keep in mind that open container laws pertain to alcohol, so you should not be in trouble if you get pulled over with a can of soda. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Note: Open container laws vary greatly by state. Research the laws of your state to learn about the specific permissions and penalties that would pertain to you.
What is an Open Container Violation?
In Louisiana, you don’t necessarily have to be drinking while driving to receive an alcohol-related violation. If you have an open container in the passenger area, you could receive what’s called an “open container violation.” Both drivers and passengers are subject to these laws, and it applies whether the vehicle is parked or in motion. An “open container” is defined as any alcoholic beverage that has been opened, had contents removed, or even had its seal broken. However, it’s common for these laws to exempt low-content alcohol.
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Here is a list of what could be defined as an “open container”:
- All other types of containers for alcohol
If I Get Pulled Over, Who’s Responsible?
By definition, open container laws prohibit the possession of an open container. Therefore, the person responsible would be the one who is in possession of the alcoholic beverage. However, if an officer pulls you and your passenger over and neither of you admit to being the owner of the container, then they will likely determine it based on whom the container is closest to and whether it’s within reach. It’s also likely that they might write a citation for both of you.
In some states, the driver is considered responsible for all open container violations in the car, so take caution and don’t let your passengers drink.
What is the Penalty for an Open Container Violation?
While penalties for open container violations vary by state, they are generally far less severe than getting a DWI. Usually, an open container would be considered a misdemeanor or infraction. While a jail sentence is more possible in some states than others, it is very unlikely you would be arrested (depending where you are). In Louisiana, you could be fined a small to moderate amount, usually $100 or less pursuant to La. R.S. 32:300.
Again, these penalties vary by state, so please research the laws of your state before taking any risks with open container violations. Also keep in mind that some states will penalize the driver much more harshly than the passenger, and drivers are more likely to serve a jail sentence or pay a larger fine.
Where in the Vehicle is an Open Container Allowed? Are There Exceptions?
Generally speaking, open container laws only pertain to the passenger area of a vehicle. The passenger area is any area that can be occupied by or within reach of a passenger or driver. In that case, the trunk of your car is typically the safest bet. However, if you don’t have a trunk, some states allow you to keep them behind the back row of seats.
Non-alcoholic beer or low-content alcoholic drinks like kombucha are typically safe. Also, most states allow open bottles or cans in the living area of an RV or motorhome. Usually, rentals like limousines and party buses are also fine.
And while some states permit vendors to sell to-go alcoholic beverages, these are still subject to the open container laws, so don’t open them in the car!
List of States That are Less Strict About Open Containers
- Alaska – A passenger is allowed to drink alcohol, but the driver must not have an open bottle or can in their possession.
- Arkansas – Open containers are allowed in the car, but neither the driver nor passengers are allowed to drink.
- Connecticut – A passenger may possess or drink alcohol.
- Delaware – Same as above.
- Mississippi – Open bottles and drinking are permitted as long as the driver stays below 0.08% BAC.
- Missouri – Open containers are allowed and passengers can drink, but the driver must not drink.
- Tennessee – Passengers may drink.
- Virginia – A passenger may drink but is also allowed to make an argument that the driver was drinking.
- West Virginia – No one may drink, but open bottles and cans are fine.
Conclusion on Pulled Over with an Open Container
Open container laws vary by state, and while some places are less strict than others, you could get arrested if you have a violation. If you drive around with open bottles or cans of alcohol, make sure to research the laws of your particular state, and drive safely. In the instance you get pulled over, be honest about who is in possession of alcohol in the car, so you can avoid getting a worse penalty. After reading this article, you should now understand what would happen if you were pulled over with an open container and what you need to know about everything revolving around the subject.