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What Does Having an 'Open Container' Mean?

Open container while driving

Under Colorado law, knowingly possessing or consuming an open container of alcohol or marijuana in a vehicle on a public road or right-of-way is illegal. Although penalized as an infraction, worse consequences can come if a driver is found to be under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.

While this law seems like it’s self-explanatory, there are some important nuances to grasp. In fact, understanding these nuances can help you avoid the penalties associated with having an open container in your vehicle or on your person in public.

What Is an Open Container?

When most people think about an open container of alcohol, they think of a beer can that’s been opened or an open bottle with discarded a cap or cork. These are definitely considered open containers, but it’s important to understand that a previously opened container of alcohol is still considered an open container even if it was resealed.

For example, placing the cork back into an unfinished bottle of wine doesn’t count as a sealed container. Because the bottle’s original seal was broken, it will always be considered an open container – even if nothing was actually consumed.

Where Is It Illegal to Have an Open Container?

It’s illegal to have an open container of alcohol or marijuana in your car, whether it is being consumed or not. Because of this, not even passengers can consume alcohol even if the driver is perfectly sober.

If one intends to transport opened containers of alcohol or marijuana, the only place in a car where it’s legal to do so is in the trunk. This is because it’s inaccessible to the driver and passengers – keep in mind that the glove box and center console storage space don’t count.

Notable Exceptions

There are some notable exceptions to open container laws in Colorado. Under these exceptions, it may be legal for passengers to consume alcohol in moving vehicles such as motorhomes, limousines, party buses, shuttles, and other vehicles for hire that permit drinking.

There are also important exceptions made for vehicles such as hatchback cars, vans, and jeeps that don’t have trunk space that’s inaccessible to passengers. The law permits storing open containers in the cargo spaces for these types of vehicles, even if they’re technically accessible.

Charged with an Open Container Violation?

If you are charged with an open container violation, our criminal defense lawyer at Orr Law Firm can help you fight your charges. You can also be charged with a DUI if an officer believes you were under the influence of alcohol or marijuana in an open container in your car, whether you were driving or parked.

For more information about how you can fight your charges, contact Orr Law Firm online today.