Many states in the country have rules against driving with open containers, but the specifics of these laws vary from state to state. Understanding how the laws work where you live can be key to avoiding penalties or even time behind bars.
Understanding Florida’s open container law and how it applies to your situation can help you avoid unnecessary fines and legal issues. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of Florida’s open container law, explain the penalties for violating the law, and offer tips for staying in compliance and avoiding a ticket.
Whether you’re a Florida resident or a visitor to the state, knowing the ins and outs of the open container law in Florida can help you stay safe, protect your driving record, and avoid legal trouble.
What Is Florida Open Container Law?
A lot of people move to Florida later in life, avoiding the colder weather up north and settling somewhere new. Unfortunately, that means new laws to keep up with, and the open container law is certainly one of them.
Put simply, the open container law in Florida makes it completely unlawful to consume alcohol or have an open alcohol container in your vehicle. To be more specific, that means there can be no open alcohol when a car is in motion, even if you are a passenger.
This law is the same even if you are pulled over to the side of the road or off the road entirely: you cannot have an alcoholic beverage open.
Most disputes that arise over the open container law occur because the definition of these terms can be somewhat loose. To be safe, it’s always advised that you exit your car at your destination before opening any alcoholic beverage.
That being said, it can still be helpful to further define the terms used in the language of the law. For example, what is considered a ‘road?’ Is it okay to drink in your own driveway?
In Florida, ‘road’ is defined as including all areas open to travel by the general public. That means alleyways, sidewalks, bridges, and tunnels as well as normal roadways and highways.
An open container could be defined as any alcoholic beverage that is able to be drank in its current state. A person can be deemed as ‘having possession’ of this open container if it is anywhere in the main cabin of the vehicle, even if it is not found in the person’s hand or near them.
Staying Compliant with Open Container Law
To stay compliant with Florida’s open container law, drivers and passengers should avoid bringing open containers of alcohol into their vehicles or consuming alcohol while inside a vehicle on a public roadway.
If alcohol must be transported, it should be stored in a secure, sealed container in the trunk or another area of the vehicle that is not accessible to the driver or passengers.
Some Exceptions to the Law
In most cases, open container laws are enforced very strictly. There are some exceptions to the law, however. If a driver of the vehicle is a registered commercial driver and is operating the vehicle based on a contractual job, then the open container law might not apply to passengers.
This is why when people rent a limo for a night out, for example, they can continue to drink in the automobile. This is one of the only scenarios where a passenger is legally allowed to be drinking while on the road in Florida.
A bus driver who is licensed will also not be found guilty for open bottles of alcohol located in the vehicle that they are driving.
The prohibition of open containers in vehicles also does not apply if the vehicle is a mobile home or an RV unit. In order to qualify as a motor home, the vehicle needs to be over 21 feet in length.
Some people wonder about bringing home unfinished bottles of wine, for example, from a party or restaurant. This perfectly okay to do as long as the alcohol is stored away from the driver. For example, in the trunk of the vehicle or somewhere where it would not be accessible while on the roadways.
Open Container Law Penalties in Florida
There are penalties for breaking the open container law in the state of Florida. If you are pulled over by a cop and discovered with an open container, you can face fines, even if you can prove that you were not drinking while on the road.
A violation of the open container law is considered a noncriminal moving traffic violation by the state. In most cases, the fee for this kind of charge is $60, though it may vary in some counties in the state of Florida. The maximum the court can fine someone for this charge is set at $500.
In addition to the fine and potential court fees, a person will also have three points added to their license as a result of the charge. In some cases, a person’s license might get suspended or temporarily halted as punishment.
A passenger who is found with an open bottle of alcohol will be guilty of a different and slightly lesser charge. It is that of a nonmoving traffic violation. The typical charge for this in most counties in the state is about $30. The maximum one could charge for this is also set at $500.
In most cases, a person will get off with a simple ticket in these situations. Drivers do have the ability to fight the charge and can take the ticket to traffic court. One can hire an attorney to help fight their case and see if they can get the charges dropped or obtain a not guilty decision.
Understanding Florida Open Container Law
If you’re new to the sunshine state, it’s important to familiarize yourself with Florida open container law. Failure to understand the legalities involved with transporting alcohol could get you into hot water with local law enforcement.
As long as you follow the laws as listed above, you should make it to where ever you are headed with no issues at all. Failure to do so could result in a ticket or fine.
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