Connecticut Open Alcohol Container Laws
In a majority of states, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle regardless of who is drinking it. Connecticut has unique laws regarding open containers in motor vehicles. 40 states totally ban the presence of any open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. In Connecticut, drivers may not drink alcohol while operating a motor vehicle, but the passengers, over the age of 21, can drink alcohol in a motor vehicle.What is an Open Container Law?
An open container law references the carrying of open containers of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle. The law generally presumes that if an unsealed container that contains an alcoholic beverage is located inside a vehicle such as a bottle, flask, or cup, then the occupants of the vehicle are consuming that beverage. Most states ban all open containers from motor vehicles to help deter drinking while driving. Several states allow anyone, including the driver, to not only have an open container in a motor vehicle but also drink alcohol while driving as long as the driver is not intoxicated.Connecticut's Open Container Law
A lot of people mistakingly state that Connecticut has no open container law. It is more accurate to state that Connecticut has a partial open container law. Passengers over the age of 21 are permitted to drink and have open containers in Connecticut. However, drivers are not allowed to drink while driving a motor vehicle. Also, individuals under the age of 21 can not possess alcohol in a motor vehicle.C.G.S. § 53a-213 – Drinking While Operating a Motor Vehicle
Pursuant to C.G.S. § 53a-213 it is a crime for anyone driving a motor vehicle to drink any alcoholic beverage while driving, stopped in a parking lot that holds more than 10 cars, or upon school property. A violation of this statute is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. If the driver is under 21, there is also a mandatory 60 days license suspension.Social Hosting Laws and Open Containers in Vehicles
It is important to understand that just because Connecticut has an open container policy when it comes to passengers in a motor vehicle does not mean that you can allow minors to drink in your vehicle.
If you are driving around with minors who are drinking alcohol in your vehicle, you may be charged with one of Connecticut's social hosting statutes which are treated very seriously by state's attorneys and the Courts. Pursuant to CGS § 30-86, providing alcohol to persons under the age of 21 is a Class E felony.
Even failure to halt the possession of alcohol by a minor is a misdemeanor crime. While you can allow your passengers to drink alcohol in your car, you should make sure that they are all over the age of 21, or you can face serious criminal consequences.Civil Liability for Open Containers
Even though you may not be intoxicated enough to be charged with DUI, having an open container in your car is a prescription for a civil lawsuit if you are involved in an accident. While a criminal case requires proof beyond reasonable doubt of your intoxication, a civil case just requires proof by a preponderance of the evidence of a deviation of the standard of care of a reasonably prudent person. It is not a smart idea to have open containers in your vehicle because if any accident occurs, you may find yourself with a civil suit claiming that alcohol consumption was a factor in the accident.Defending Open Container Charges
Some DUI cases also involve a charge of drinking alcohol while driving in violation of C.G.S. § 53a-213. Very often, when single-occupant drivers are pulled over for suspicion of DUI an open container is found right next to them. In some cases, the officers have observed the defendants drinking from the container before pulling them over, and other times the accused makes an admission that they were drinking from the container.
Regardless of the circumstances, while this is a relatively minor offense, it is still a crime and will result in a permanent criminal record. For that reason, anyone who is charged with an open container violation in Connecticut should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. While you can use the accelerated rehabilitation program for this offense, it is generally preferable to not "burn your a/r" on a minor offense like this.Contact a Connecticut Drinking while Driving a Motor Vehicle Lawyer!
If you have been charged with a violation of C.G.S. § 53a-213 in Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Bridgeport, or anywhere through the State of Connecticut, you should immediately contact a DUI lawyer at The Law Offices of Allan F. Friedman. We always provide a free initial consultation to review the best options to resolve your case. We focus on results that work, and we work with reasonable flat rate fixed fees. Call Attorney Friedman at (203) 357-5555 to schedule your free initial consultation. We are available 24/7. Or you can contact us online for a prompt response.