A number of people have asked us about Minnesota’s open container law, so we thought we could help explain the law and some common legal defenses if you are charged with a crime. Minnesota’s open container law states that possession or “having dominion” over an alcoholic beverage or distilled spirits while in a motor vehicle is prohibited. There is some leeway when it comes to “having dominion” over the beverage, but if the seal is broken and you can reach it from the driver’s seat, you are generally considered to have dominion over the container.
The law states that it is illegal for drivers or their passengers to consume alcohol or be in the possession of open alcohol container while the vehicle is operating on a public road or you have physical control over the vehicle. Even if you are sober and you have empty beer cans or a half empty bottle of vodka in the passenger’s seat, you can be found in violation of Minnesota’s open container law.
A vehicle owner can also be cited for open alcohol containers in their vehicle even if somebody else is driving the car, or if they are driving and their passengers are drinking in the back seat, so don’t let anyone drink or leave empty beer cans in your car. This law holds true for mobile homes as well, meaning drivers and passengers cannot drink alcohol while the vehicle is in motion, no matter what “room” of the mobile home they are in.
Exceptions To The Open Container Law
There are some exceptions to Minnesota’s open container law:
- Passengers can openly drink on motorized boats, so long as the driver is sober.
- You can drink in a bus if you have a hired driver.
- You can drink in a car service like a limousine if you have a hired driver.
- Riders of off-road vehicles can have open containers unless the ATV is being operated on roadways or the shoulder of a roadway that is not part of a grant-in-aid trail or trail designated for that vehicle.
Contesting An Open Container Citation
It’s not always easy to contest an open container violation, because oftentimes the driver is also hit with a DUI, and that’s a whole different issue. However, if you have been cited for just an open container ticket or other minor traffic violations, you may be able to contest it in court.
The easiest way to do this is by hiring a criminal defense lawyer to challenge the ticket on your behalf. Avery Appelman and his team have won numerous open container cases, and he’d be happy to take a closer look at your case. One of the most common ways to win one of these cases is to argue that the driver did not in fact have dominion over the beverage. For example, let’s say you’re headed to a friends house and you bring a half full bottle of Captain Morgan that you had sitting in your liquor cabinet. You throw it in your back seat, but are pulled over along the way. Since the bottle is partially full, it is considered an open container, and an officer could give you a ticket saying it’s within your reach, even if you’re stone sober. A good lawyer would be able to argue for common sense to prevail in this situation.
Minneapolis Traffic Ticket Lawyers
Other ways to challenge the ticket is to assert that you were unaware that the open beverage was in your vehicle, or that you didn’t know passengers were drinking. This is harder to prove, but we’re confident we can craft a narrative that paints you in a positive light. There are even more ways to challenge the citation, but it all depends on the specifics of your individual case.
If you’d like to sit down with Avery and talk about your legal options after an open container citation, you can set up a free initial consultation by clicking here or by calling his office at (952) 224-2277.