Most U.S. states have laws that prohibit drivers from having an open container of alcohol with them while inside a vehicle. For the most part, these open container laws are straightforward: it’s illegal to have a container filled with an alcoholic beverage anywhere within arm’s reach of the driver.
Florida has an open container law, too. But drivers who think the state’s law behaves like those in other jurisdictions might be in for a nasty surprise. This blog will tackle some little-known facts about Florida’s open container law to prevent these unfortunate circumstances.
Restrictions for both drivers and passengers
In some states, officials will only penalize drivers for having an open container of alcohol next to them. Passengers only face charges if they have a container and ride next to the driver. But under Florida’s law, it’s unlawful for both drivers and passengers to possess an open container while in a vehicle, regardless of where the passenger is riding.
There are exemptions to this restriction, such as for passengers of a commercial vehicle like a limo or bus or passengers of a self-contained motor home. But for the most part, anyone caught with an open container inside a vehicle can face charges.
Rules on possession
Florida also has unique rules to determine who possesses an open container. Per state law, the driver has an open container if it’s not inside a locked glove compartment, locked trunk or another locked non-passenger area of the vehicle. Meanwhile, a passenger has an open container by law if they have physical control of the beverage container.
This means that if an officer finds an open container inside a vehicle – regardless of where it was found, as long as it wasn’t kept in a locked compartment and it wasn’t in the hands of a passenger – they can charge the driver of possession.
Even parked cars aren’t safe
Florida’s open container law is so strict that even drivers and passengers inside a parked vehicle can face charges if they’re caught with an alcoholic beverage container in hand. Officers can penalize drivers and passengers if the parked vehicle is next to a public road.
In conclusion, having an open container on Florida roads can lead to trouble with the law. Both drivers and passengers should be mindful of the state’s specific provisions and consider their legal options if they’re charged with possession.