What are the Penalties for Open Container Violations in Cars in Utah?

Many people wonder about what penalties they can receive for having an open container of alcohol in certain places. For example, someone may want to transport a half-empty bottle of wine in their car, but they are worried about being stopped by police. Being pulled over in a situation like that is frustrating because you may not have been drinking and driving, but police may still issue you a traffic ticket. If you or a family member was arrested or cited for a violation of Utah’s open container law, you should speak with an experienced Salt Lake City DUI defense lawyer. Darwin Overson understands the difficulty of facing an open container violation and is here to fight for you. Overson Law is here to explain the penalties for open container violations in Utah.

Utah’s Open Container Laws

Open container laws are laws that make it illegal to drink in public or carry an open container of alcohol (including bottles, cans, or cups) in vehicles or public places. Title 41 of Utah’s Motor Vehicles Traffic Code §41-6a-526 makes it illegal for any person to:

  • “[D]rink any alcoholic beverage while driving a vehicle or a class 2 electric assisted bicycle,” or
  • To consumeany alcoholic beverage as a passenger in a vehicle that is moving, stopped, or parked on any Utah highway or state waterway.

Utah’s law also prohibits a driver or passenger from possessing or transporting an alcoholic beverage with an open or broken seal or possessing or transporting a partially-consumed alcoholic beverage in a vehicle, on an electric bike, or on any state waterway.

Utah defines an alcoholic beverage as a drink that contains at least .5% alcohol by volume. This broad definition allows Utah to include beer, wine, malt liquor, distilled spirits and many other forms of alcoholic beverages. Utah’s definition carves out exceptions for vinegar, preserved nonintoxicating cider, essence, tincture, beverages used for food preparation, and over-the-counter medicines.

Being in possession of an open container of alcohol while underage may also subject you to Utah’s underage drinking laws.

Open Alcoholic Beverage Law Exceptions

Like many other laws, Utah’s open container statute has some exceptions that residents of Utah should know about. These exceptions allow a person to carry an open alcoholic beverage in four types of situations, these situations are:

  • Passengers in certain vehicles. If you are a passenger in a limousine or chartered bus that Utah authorized to carry open containers of alcoholic beverages, you can possess an open bottle of alcohol or consumer an alcoholic beverage. If you are a passenger in a taxi or public bus in Utah, you may possess an open alcoholic beverage, but you may not drink from it.
  • Alcoholic beverage not within reach. The purpose of Utah’s open container laws is to keep a driver or passenger from possessing or consuming an alcoholic beverage in the passenger areas of a vehicle. Therefore, you can avoid an open container violation by placing an open alcoholic drink in the trunk of your car or another area not accessible by a driver or passenger while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Recreational Vehicles. A passenger who possesses an open alcoholic beverage or consumes one while in the living quarters of a recreational vehicle is exempt from Utah’s open container law.
  • Passengers on a motorboat are permitted to possess and consume open alcoholic beverages despite Utah’s open container laws applying to “all waters of the state.”

If you are a passenger in one of these situations, you should be able to avoid problems with Utah’s open container laws.

Sentences and Fines for Breaking Utah’s Open Container Laws

Breaking Utah’s open container laws will likely result in a class C misdemeanor charge. Class C misdemeanors are the lowest level of criminal offense in Utah. However, if you receive a class C misdemeanor, you can face a fine of up to $750 and be sentenced to a maximum of 90 days in jail.

If you have an open container while driving in Utah, you may also be investigated for drunk driving offenses. These charges can even result in license suspensions, jail time, and heavy fines. If you are also arrested for DUI while driving with an open alcohol container, talk to an attorney about your case.

Salt Lake City, Utah Criminal Defense Attorney Can Defend You in Your Open Container Case

If you or a family member is facing an open container charge in Utah, Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson is ready to represent you. The legal professionals at Overson Law have over 16 years of combined legal experience that they will utilize to help you get the outcome you deserve. To schedule a free consultation concerning your case, call us at (801) 758-2287 or contact us online.