Open Container Laws in Florida

March 31, 2022 Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving/DUI

Drinking laws are pretty well-known to lawyers and laymen alike. Don’t drink above the legal limit and drive. Don’t drink unless you’re 21 years old or older. But, what about open container laws? Sure, some people might have heard the phrase used, but what does it really mean? Well, the law is both civil and criminal. For statutory offenses, they will be classified as noncriminal. But, in some situations, criminal charges can occur. What are the penalties for violations? We will explore all of this and more in our blog post.

The Statute

Florida Statute Section 316.1936 outlines Florida’s open container law. It prohibits those driving vehicles and passengers in the vehicle from having immediately accessible alcoholic beverages.

Here are some useful definitions:

An “open container” is defined as:

Any container of alcoholic beverage which is immediately capable of being consumed from, or the seal of which has been broken.

A “road” is defined as:

A way open to travel by the public, including, but not limited to, a street, highway, or alley. The term includes associated sidewalks, the roadbed, the right-of-way, and all culverts, drains, sluices, ditches, water storage areas, embankments, slopes, retaining walls, bridges, tunnels, and viaducts necessary for the maintenance of travel and all ferries used in connection therewith.

Not only is it illegal to have an accessible open container while driving or sitting as a passenger, but it is also unlawful “for any person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage or consume an alcoholic beverage while seated in or on a motor vehicle that is parked or stopped within a road as defined in this section.”

What happens if an open container is found, but not in the actual possession of the driver or the passenger? Who gets in trouble? According to the statue:

An open container shall be considered to be in the possession of the operator of a vehicle if the container is not in the possession of a passenger and is not located in a locked glove compartment, locked trunk, or other locked non-passenger area of the vehicle.

The open container will be considered the passenger’s if the container is in the physical possession of the passenger, leaving the operator of the vehicle at a higher risk for punishment.


The statute provides exceptions, outlining situations where the statute will not apply:

  • “A passenger of a vehicle in which the driver is operating the vehicle pursuant to a contract to provide transportation for passengers and such driver holds a valid commercial driver license with a passenger endorsement issued in accordance with the requirements of chapter 322”;
  • “A passenger of a bus in which the driver holds a valid commercial driver license with a passenger endorsement issued in accordance with the requirements of chapter 322”; or
  • “A passenger of a self-contained motor home which is in excess of 21 feet in length.”

None of these exceptions apply to ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft since those drivers do not have commercial driver’s licenses. So, it is illegal to have an open container when riding as a passenger in an Uber or Lyft.

Punishments for Violations of Florida’s Open Container Laws

For drivers:

  • The offense is classified as a noncriminal moving traffic violation
  • It is punishable by a fine of up to $73 – $90 for the first offense

For passengers:

  • The offense is classified as a noncriminal moving traffic violation
  • It is punishable by a fine of up to$43 – $60 for the first offense.

If you fight the ticket:

  • If you contest the ticket, request a hearing, and lose, you would have to pay $500, alongside associated court fees.
  • You would have three points deducted from your driving record for this offense.

If you do not accept your summons:

  • Additional misdemeanor charges could be brought against you; or
  • A bench warrant for your arrest could be issued

If your violation resulted in death or injury

  • The defendant will face higher penalties
  • Additional penalties like higher fines, jail time, and community service will be applicable.

The penalties outlined here are brought about by the Florida Statutes. But the statute states that local counties or municipalities are free to impose harsher penalties and restrictions for open container laws.

City or county ordinance violations:

  • For open container offenses charged under county or municipality ordinances, such offenses are usually punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
  • It is a criminal offense that, if convicted, would leave the defendant unable to ever seal or expunge their criminal record under Florida law.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

Open container laws are tricky and require expert navigation. If you or a loved one has been charged with violating an open container law in Florida, contact a qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience and will fight zealously for your freedom. Contact us today at (850) 681 – 7777 or send an online message today to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our team.

Written by Gabi D’Esposito

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