Drunk driving is a huge problem across the United States, so it’s no surprise that a number of states have taken some additional steps to cut down on DUIs. One such law that is common in many states – but not all of them – is that a driver or their occupants may not have an open container of alcoholic beverages inside their motor vehicle while on the street. Minnesota has this law, and this means that the owner of the vehicle is responsible for any open alcohol containers inside the vehicle while it’s in use, even if they aren’t drinking themselves. In fact, they don’t even need to be in the car in order to receive an open container ticket.
However, there are a number of exceptions and defenses to the open container law in Minnesota. We’ll explain those exceptions and options in today’s blog.
Minnesota Open Container Exceptions
Not all vehicles or all bottles of alcohol are subject to the Open Container Law. Here are some exceptions that can help keep you out of trouble:
- The open container law only pertains to open containers that are accessible to the driver and/or passengers. For example, if you had a beer out of a growler, then placed the capped bottle in your trunk, drove home, got pulled over and a search revealed the growler, you would not be in violation of the open container law because it was not in your immediate vicinity. If you have open containers of alcohol, always store them out of reach, preferably in the trunk.
- Certain vehicles are exempt from the open container law. These vehicles include off road vehicles (unless they are being operated on roadways), motorized boats, buses hired by a third party, like a bachelor party or wedding party bus, or a hired vehicle providing a limousine service. However, the driver is still subject to DUI laws, so if you’re over 0.08, you may end up under arrest.
Open Container Penalties and Defenses
Violation of Minnesota’s Open Container Law will result in a misdemeanor offense, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Although it is a misdemeanor offense, there are a number of potential civil penalties for an open container violation, and those could be tacked on to any additional criminal penalties. This can result in the loss of your license and huge increases in insurance premiums among other potential penalties. This is why it’s crucial to hire a criminal defense attorney if you are cited for an open container violation. Your attorney will work to gather the facts, and he’ll start working on your defense. Maybe he’ll argue that the beverages were out of an accessible range, or if others were drinking in the car and not you, he may be able to get the ticket thrown out or severely reduced, as it’s clear you were making better decisions than others. If you’ve been hit with an open intoxicant citation in Minnesota, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today.