In Minnesota, it is illegal for any person to have an open container of an alcoholic substance inside a motor vehicle on a street or highway. Violation of this law is a misdemeanor offense. Even without being present, the owner of a motor vehicle is considered liable for any open alcohol receptacle in their vehicle while the vehicle is in operation. However, there are many important exceptions to this law that of which Minnesotans should be aware.
Exceptions to the Open Container Law
This law only applies to open bottles contained within the areas of the vehicle accessible to the driver and passengers. Open bottles kept in a trunk or another area not readily accessible is also permissible. Furthermore, the following motorized vehicles are exempt from Minnesota’s open container law:
- Off-road vehicles (such as ATVs)–unless they are being operated on roadways
- Motorized boats
- Buses operated by a hired driver (such as party buses)
- A vehicle providing limousine service
Open Container Definitions
The statute also specifies, with great detail, which beverages are applicable under this law. “Alcoholic beverages”, “distilled spirits”, and “malt beverage” are all defined via the following criteria and subject to open container restrictions:
- “Alcoholic beverage” is any beverage containing more than one-half of one percent alcohol by volume.
- “Distilled spirits” is ethyl alcohol, hydrated oxide of ethyl, spirits of wine, whiskey, rum, brandy, gin, and other distilled spirits, including all dilutions and mixtures thereof, for nonindustrial use.
- “Malt liquor” is any beer, ale, or other beverage made from malt by fermentation and containing not less than one-half of one percent alcohol by volume.
Open Container Offense Penalties & Defenses
Violation of this law is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.
It is crucial that anyone charged with an open container offense contact an experienced Minnesota defense attorney right away. Although it is a misdemeanor offense, there are several potential civil penalties for an open container violation, which may be imposed in addition to any criminal ramification. If convicted, a person may lose their right to drive for up to 30 days. This can cause annual insurance rates to increase by $1500-$2,000 for 5 years after the conviction.