In Minnesota, certain individuals can be held liable for illegally transporting an open container of alcohol inside motor vehicles that are on public streets or highways. People who are found to be in violation of the state’s open container law could face criminal charges. By familiarizing themselves with open container laws in the state, drivers, passengers and vehicle owners can avoid being convicted of TOC.
Exceptions to the Rule
Drivers, passengers and even absent vehicle owners can be held liable for violating open container laws whether or not they are consuming the alcohol. Minnesota state patrol issued 814 open container violations citations in 2016 alone. While open containers of alcoholic beverages are prohibited from being transported inside motor vehicles, there are a few exceptions.
Location of the Open Container
The location of an open container of alcohol is an important factor when a MN DWI lawyer prepares a defense. Under Minnesota law, alcoholic beverage containers may not be transported in a location that is easily accessible to the driver or passengers inside the vehicle. When open containers must be transported, they should be kept:
- Inside a locked trunk. In most cases, transporting an open container inside a locked trunk can prevent drivers and passengers from being convicted of TOC.
- In the very back of a vehicle. Many vehicles, like minivans, crossovers, hatchbacks and SUVs do not have actual trunks. In these cases, Minnesota Patrol Sgt. Scott Wahl recommends placing open containers in the very back of the vehicle.
- In pickup truck beds. For individuals who drive trucks, it is recommended that open alcohol containers be placed in the bed of the truck to avoid a open container violation.
Type of Vehicle
Certain types of vehicles are exempt from Minnesota’s open container laws.
- Buses, limousines and taxi cabs
- Off-road vehicles unless they are on public roadways
- Motorized boats
Operators of these vehicles can still be convicted of DWI if their blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or above.
Consequences for Violating Minnesota’s Open Container Law
For those who are convicted of violating Minnesota’s open container law, the consequences can be severe. A misdemeanor offense, TOC violators can face both criminal and civil penalties including:
- Fines of up to $1,000
- Up to 90 days in jail
- Driver’s license suspension
Additionally, those who are convicted of TOC often experience significant increases in motor vehicle insurance rates.