Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
photo of attorney Timothy P. Kelly

Open container prohibitions apply to to-go alcohol sales

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2020 | Drunk Driving |

Nowadays, some Washington restaurants serve pre-mixed cocktails to customers who cannot participate in in-person dining. While restaurants with liquor licenses may have legal permission to send you home with a boozy drink, you still cannot have an open container of alcohol in most parts of your vehicle.

A violation of Washington’s open container law is usually a traffic infraction. Violating the law typically results in a fine but doing so may also expose you to additional scrutiny. That is, if an officer finds an open container in your vehicle, he or she may suspect you are driving under the influence of alcohol.

Understand the open container law

Washington law prohibits transporting any container of alcohol with a broken seal inside your vehicle. You also cannot legally carry a container of alcohol that is missing some of its contents. There is an important exception to these prohibitions, however.

Keep containers of alcohol in the trunk

You may legally transport an open container of alcohol in the trunk of your vehicle. If your vehicle does not have a trunk, you must place the open container in a space where you and your passengers do not normally sit.

This space may not be the glove box or center console, as these compartments are inside the area you and your passengers typically occupy.

Wait until you arrive home

While it may be tempting to take a swig of a delicious to-go cocktail, you should wait until you arrive home to imbibe. Even if your blood alcohol concentration does not surpass the legal threshold for drunk driving, alcohol residue in your mouth may cause you to fail a DUI breath test.