What is the open container law in the Commonwealth of Virginia? What are the potential penalties for an open container violation? What should you do if you get an open container violation on your record? In this blog post, we will be covering the most-updated information regarding Virginia’s open container law. Read along for more information.
Open Container Law Virginia
In the state of Virginia, there is not an open container law; technically, there is no law or code directly prohibiting open containers in motor vehicles in the Commonwealth of Virginia. With that said, there are still serious considerations one must make in regards to the open alcoholic containers inside a motor vehicle.
According to Virginia law code, it is illegal to consume alcohol while driving a motor vehicle on any public road. In that, a violation of this law can be assessed if a “rebuttable presumption” can be made that the driver was consuming an alcoholic beverage. This presumption can be made if an open container is found in the passenger area of the vehicle, if the alcohol in the open container is partially removed, and the driver exhibits signs that he or she may have been drinking. If you have questions or are found in violation of this law, contact us immediately for a free consultation, and we can help you.
Under this definition, the passenger area includes any area in reach of the driver and any area designated for passengers to sit, including an unlocked glove compartment. It does not include the trunk or the area behind the last upright seat in any motor vehicle. So, if a passenger in your car has an open container, although it is not technically illegal, a police officer can make a rebuttable presumption that you were driving a motor vehicle while consuming alcohol if you are exhibiting any signs of drunkenness. If you are unsure what constitutes consuming alcohol while driving a motor vehicle, see this blog post.
What is considered an open container?
According to Virginia law code, an open container “means any vessel containing an alcoholic beverage, except the originally sealed manufacturer’s container”. If the original seal is broken in any way on an alcoholic beverage, it is to be considered an open container.
Is Open Container a Criminal Offense?
If a police officer pulls you over with an open container in your car, what criminal charges could you be facing?
In short, having an open container of alcohol in and of itself in your car is not a criminal offense; it is when an open container is in the passenger area of the motor vehicle, the alcohol in the open container is partially removed, and the driver is found to be exhibiting symptoms of consuming alcohol that having an open container in a motor vehicle becomes a criminal offense.
In this instance, the criminal offense is driving while operating a motor vehicle. Drinking while operating a motor vehicle is a class IV misdemeanor, which constitutes a maximum fine of $250 and no jail time. If you are found to be driving under the influence (DUI) in addition to drinking while operating a motor vehicle, the penalties can vary depending on your DUI history; if it is your first offense, it is regarded as a Class I misdemeanor, which carries a mandatory minimum fine of $250 and a maximum fine of $2,500.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges for drinking while operating a motor vehicle – or if you simply have questions about the law—call Cook Attorneys today. We’d love to speak with you!