In Minnesota, not only it is against the law to consume alcohol while driving on public roads, but it is also illegal to possess an open bottle. How does the law define an open bottle? Who will face charges in the event of an open bottle violation? Read on to find answers to these and other questions about Minnesota’s open bottle law.
What constitutes an open bottle in Minnesota?
According to Section 169A.35 of the Minnesota Statutes, the contents of an open bottle can fall into any of these categories: an alcoholic beverage, a distilled spirit or a malt liquor. The law defines alcoholic beverages as those containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume; distilled spirits are drinks that contain ethyl alcohol, which includes rum, whiskey, and gin. The open bottle law also applies to any drink containing more than 3.2 percent malt liquor. All beverages falling into these categories are forbidden.
If a bottle’s seal is broken or it is missing any of its contents, it is considered an open bottle.
Who is liable for an open bottle?
The driver of a car where police officers find an open bottle can be charged as can the owner even when they are not the driver. In fact, the owner may face an open bottle violation charge despite being nowhere near the car at the time the violation occurred. Owners should be aware of this possibility when they loan out their vehicle.
What constitutes possession of an open bottle in a vehicle?
The law defines possession of an open bottle in two ways: actual and constructive. Actual possession is when the driver or passenger is holding the alcoholic beverage or is carrying it on their person, such as a flask in a pocket. Constructive possession relates to beverage containers that are simply within reach, which means that the driver or passengers have access to them. The law states that an open bottle within reach of the driver and any passengers in the car is illegal. Note that out of sight does not mean out of reach. Even a locked glove compartment is still accessible, which means that an open bottle stored in it could result in charges.
When is it legal to transport an open bottle?
The open bottle law does not apply to parts of the vehicle where the open bottle is inaccessible. An open bottle in a car’s trunk or the bed of a pickup truck would not provide a basis for a criminal charge. These are the best ways to transport opened or half-consumed bottles of liquor. Similarly, whether or not an individual gets charged with an open container violation depends on what they are driving. ATVs and other vehicles that cannot legally be operated on public roads are exempt from penalties. They are exempt as long as they are not driven on a roadway or the shoulder of a road not designated for an ATV. Private limousines are also excluded, but motorhomes are not. No one in a motorhome may consume liquor whether they are the driver or the passenger.
What are the penalties for having an open bottle?
Violation of Minnesota’s open bottle law will result in misdemeanor charges. The penalties can include up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $1,000. There are also ramifications outside of the legal system as a violation of the open bottle law may result in individuals paying more for insurance. Their insurance rates may increase by as much as $2,000 for up to five years after a conviction.
If you are facing an open bottle charge, you should get in touch with an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney immediately. While it is a misdemeanor, civil and criminal penalties can be severe, and you should take them seriously. Contact us at the Law Offices of Judith Samson to learn more.
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