Open container laws and enforcement differ from state to state, and even from Pasco to Pinellas to Hernando counties. Since many Floridians are transplants from other states, it’s important that you are aware of Florida’s Open Container Laws before a night out on the town.
Florida Open Container Law
The Florida Open Container Statute 316.1936 states that “an open container shall be considered to be in the possession of the operator of a vehicle if the container is not in the possession of a passenger and is not located in a locked glove compartment, locked trunk, or other locked non-passenger areas of the vehicle.” The statute also defines an open container as any alcoholic beverage that is immediately capable of being consumed, or the seal of the container has been broken.
An “open container” is any alcoholic beverage where the seal is broken, or the drink is otherwise immediately ready to be consumed. Most alcoholic drinks are going to count as an “open container.” Beers in bottles or cans, mixed drinks in a cup, and alcoholic beverages in a flask are all considered open containers.
For the passenger, “An open container shall be considered to be in the possession of a passenger of a vehicle if the container is in the physical control of the passenger.”
Can Passengers Drink Alcohol in a Car in Florida?
According to Article IV of Florida Statute 316.1936, if any passengers of a motor vehicle are in possession of or consume an open alcoholic beverage, the open container law is violated. This type of offense is considered a non-criminal moving traffic violation, which can mean the driver can be fined up to $500 and possible jail time, depending on what county you are pulled over in. Pasco County enforcement has gone through changes in recent years, so it’s best to be safe rather than sorry here. It may also lead to points assessed against your driver’s license.
You cannot have an open container as a passenger in any vehicle, including if the car is parked or stopped on the “road.” This does not apply to those passengers in a motor home that is parked or stopped.
If your designated driver is pulled over and you have an open container in the car, the officer can issue tickets to both you and the driver. This includes driving services like Uber and Lyft. Your Uber or Lyft drivers DO NOT have commercial driving licenses, and by drinking in the car you are putting yourself at risk of an open container charge. Uber and Lyft drivers are not treated as commercial drivers legally, and having open containers is also against the policy of these rideshare services.
Can I Take an Open Wine Bottle Home After Dinner?
Wine bottles are a special case in open container laws. According to Article VIII of the Florida open container statute, a resealed bottle of wine is not considered an open container and can be transported pursuant to s. 564.09. It’s perfectly legal for you to re-cork a nice wine you had with dinner and take it home.
Open Container Laws and Limitations for Tampa’s Riverwalk
In late 2014, Tampa’s Riverwalk got the green light to allow patrons to possess open containers of beer, wine and liquor. While this has successfully helped enhance the city’s mission to build a downtown that people want to be a part of, the open container policy does have limitations.
For patrons wanting to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on Tampa’s Riverwalk, the alcohol must come from one of the approved, licensed establishments (simply put, don’t bring your own libations). Any alcohol purchased from one of the approved, licensed establishment must be in a plastic cup with the Riverwalk logo.
Patrons can only carry two drinks at a time and cannot possess alcohol between 1 a.m. and 11 a.m. In addition, it is unlawful to take a drink from the Riverwalk into a city park unless there is a permitted special event.
Read the full details on the ordinance here.
Where Can You Legally Drink Alcohol in Florida?
It’s unlawful to have an open alcoholic beverage in many public spaces in Florida. When you read “It’s unlawful to have an open container on a road” you may just think of being in the car, but the truth is that the law defines “road” pretty broadly.
It’s unlawful to have an open container on a street, highway, alley, sidewalk, roadbed, ditches, drains, water storage areas, bridges, tunnels, and ferries unless otherwise noted.
Are There Any Exemptions to the Open Container Laws?
The only places you are allowed to have an open container in the car is if it’s in the trunk, glove box, or other locked non-passenger areas of the vehicle. So you could put an open beer back into your cooler, and then into your trunk after a beach day.
RVs are exempt from some of the more strict open container laws, although you can’t drink while the vehicle is in motion you are allowed to consume alcohol while it’s parked because it’s designed for people to be inside of it.
Passengers in a vehicle where the driver holds a valid commercial driving license, passengers of a bus (where the bus driver holds a valid commercial driver license), and people inside of RV’s longer than 21 feet are exempt from this section.
Florida Open Container Law Penalty
If you have been charged with an open container offense, depending on the severity of the situation, you may be charged with a misdemeanor and incur a fine, which will vary between different ordinances. According to the Florida Open Container Statute 316.1936, cities and municipalities can create their own ordinances for open containers as well. When you are faced with criminal charges, it is important that you get in touch with a criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable about Florida’s open container laws and penalties and experienced in handling them.
Port Richey Attorneys Will Defend Your Open Container Offense
At Proly, Laporte and Mulligan, P.A, clients will find experienced Criminal Defense attorneys whom they can trust with their case. Most staff members have been a part of the esteemed law office for many years and part of the Port Richey, Hudson, and Holiday, Fla. communities for much more so they are more than qualified and knowledgeable in cases like yours.