Transporting an open bottle of wine or alcohol in a car often causes people anxiety. People may have concerns about what part of their car they can use to transport wine without being fined or arrested for open container violations. If you are driving a vehicle that does not have a separate, enclosed trunk to store items, you may have some apprehensions about transporting that leftover wine from your favorite BYOB restaurant in the front or back seat. Fortunately, Utah has laws dictating the proper way to transport open containers of alcohol. If you or a family member is accused of violating open container laws, you should speak with an experienced Salt Lake City traffic ticket lawyer. The Law Offices of Darwin Overson understand the frustration of being charged with a traffic violation that could result in license suspension or other charges. With over 16 years of criminal law experience, Darwin will fight your open container case. To schedule a free consultation, reach us online or call us at (801) 758-2287.
Salt Lake City Open Container Violations
Utah’s open container laws make it illegal to transport an open container of alcohol (including wine) in a vehicle. Specifically, Title 41 of Utah’s Motor Vehicles Traffic Code §41-6a-526 prohibits an individual from drinking any alcoholic beverage while driving a motor vehicle or “class 2 electric assisted bicycle.” This law also prohibits passengers from consuming an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle that is moving, stopped, or parked on any Utah highway.
Additionally, any alcoholic beverage that has a broken seal or is partially consumed cannot be transported in the passenger compartment of a vehicle on Utah’s roads or waterways.
Penalties for Driving with Open Bottle of Alcohol
You can be ticketed for driving with an open bottle of wine in Utah. However, most open container violations will be charged as a class C misdemeanor. Since class C misdemeanors are the lowest crime you can be charged with in Utah; your penalty will not be severe. Class C misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of 90 days in prison and a fine of up to $750.
If this is not your first alcohol-related offense in Utah, you could receive higher charges than a class C misdemeanor. This could mean that you spend more time in prison, lose your license, or have to pay steeper fines. Underage individuals found with open containers of alcohol in a vehicle may be charged with open container violations and underage drinking.
While driving with an open bottle of alcohol is a class C misdemeanor, you may still be arrested for this offense. Most traffic stops have the potential, however small, to result in an arrest. Of course, it is extremely rare for police to make an arrest during a routine traffic stop. Driving with an open bottle of wine is more likely to result in a traffic ticket than an arrest. However, being under the influence and driving with an open container is more likely to result in an arrest.
Exceptions to Utah’s Open Container Laws
Utah’s open container laws do have exceptions to allow people to carry open containers of alcohol without the fear of being charged or arrested.
You can legally carry an open bottle of wine in a car if it is somewhere that the driver or passengers cannot reach. For example, if you have leftover wine from a wine tasting, placing it in the trunk will ensure you avoid an open container violation. For vehicles without an enclosed trunk, the rear of your vehicle should be sufficient as long as you cannot easily reach this area while driving. The center console or glove compartment of your car is easily accessible to the driver or passenger and should not be used to transport open alcohol.
Another exception to Utah’s open container statute allows passengers to carry open bottles of alcohol in a limousine or chartered bus. Passengers in these vehicles can even consume alcoholic beverages. If you are a passenger in a taxi or public bus, you may only possess an open alcoholic beverage; you may not consume it.
If you are in a recreational vehicle, you can legally possess or consume an alcoholic beverage in the living quarters of the vehicle. Additionally, passengers on a motorboat in Utah’s waterways can possess or consume open alcoholic beverages.
Violations of these laws could result in being charged with other crimes like DUI or other traffic-related offenses.
Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Fight Your Open Container Case
If you or a family member was charged with an open container violation, you should consult with an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer today. The legal team at Overson Law is dedicated to providing you with aggressive legal representation to help you reclaim your life after being charged with a crime. Alcohol-related offenses can have a negative impact on your career and driving record, and we will fight to minimize those effects. Our offices are located in Salt Lake City, but we represent clients across the State of Utah. Contact Overson Law immediately for your free consultation by calling (801) 758-2287. We answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.