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Couple Drinking in Car

Can You Get an Open Container Violation for Non-Alcoholic Drinks?

WV Open Container Law

West Virginia open container law is deceptively simple. You might think you’re safe if you just put a bottle in the back seat. However, West Virginia’s open container laws have resulted in some receiving citations regardless of whether they touched the alcohol.

To help illustrate this issue, we’ve put together some important facts about West Virginia’s open container laws.

What is an Open Container?

West Virginia law defines an open container as any object that contains alcohol and either has a broken seal or is partially empty. Under the law, an alcoholic beverage includes any beer, spirit, malt beverage, or wine. Curiously enough, it also includes non-alcoholic beer.

Open container applies to both the driver and passengers. If your passenger is drinking while inside the car, you’re at risk of being pulled over, even if you didn’t know they had a drink.

The specifics of the open container law can lead to some complex situations. What if you went to a party and you come home with a half-empty bottle? If you’re pulled over, you could face an open container violation if that bottle is in the wrong place.

Where Can You Store It?

Drivers and passengers can be charged if the bottle is in an easily accessible place inside the cabin. To avoid these accusations, you might want to put alcohol either in a lockbox, the trunk of the car, or the bed of a pickup. The farther you can put the container from the driver’s seat, the better.

Any Exceptions?

There are a few legally acceptable times where you can drink in a vehicle. You may drink if you are a passenger in a licensed limo, taxi, or party bus. It’s also legal to drink in an RV or mobile home so long as you are not in the front of the vehicle.

If you were charged with an open container violation, you might want legal representation. If you’d like an experienced Martinsburg DUI attorney from The Wagner Law Firm to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (304) 461-6000.

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