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Open container law enforcement in Virginia

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2023 | DWI |

Virginia, including Virginia Beach, enforces an open container law among its drivers. This law prohibits public and vehicular consumption of alcohol. This means that having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle’s driver or passenger seat areas is illegal. Regardless of whether a car is running or stopped/parked, drivers cannot have an open alcohol container.

Drinking inside the car

The open container law applies when a person consumes or has an open alcohol container in the car or nondesignated public areas. Unless the individual is in certain restaurants or events that allow open containers, they may violate this law. For law enforcement to enforce the law, the following conditions must be met:

  • The presence of an open container within the passenger area of the motor vehicle
  • Evidence of consumption (tampered original factory seal)
  • The driver appears to have consumed alcohol through evidence of his appearance, conduct, odor of alcohol or speech.

Unlike other states, Virginia does not prohibit passengers from drinking or holding an open container. The state’s open container rule targets the driver, not the passengers. However, if a passenger has an open container, it could lead law enforcement officers to assume that the driver has been drinking as well.

Violations of the law

Anyone who violates the law could face a $250 penalty. And if there’s evidence of intoxication from alcohol or drugs, they also risk a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge. If an individual is operating a vehicle with an open alcohol container present, it’s important to reassess the situation. Thinking twice could save them from a hefty fine or even a criminal charge.