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What it means to have an open container in your car

If a Virginia police officer spots an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. This may be true even if you aren’t charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Additional penalties may apply if an officer believes that you have recently consumed alcohol that was in the container.

What is considered to be an open container?

An open container can be any unsealed object that can be used to hold an alcoholic beverage. For example, if you poured beer into a travel mug, you could be charged with a crime if that mug is discovered during an investigation.

The container must be in a designated passenger area

As a general rule, a designated passenger area includes the seat that the driver occupies. It also includes an unlocked glove box, rear seat or any other area within that person’s reach. However, it generally doesn’t include the trunk of the vehicle even if it is found to be unlocked during a traffic stop.

How could an officer prove that you have recently consumed alcohol?

An officer may claim that you were consuming alcohol while driving based on the presence of an open container in your vehicle. However, he or she may base that claim on other factors such as your inability to stand upright, the fact that you were slurring your speech or any other relevant information. A criminal defense attorney may be able to dispute the fact that you were impaired at the time of a traffic stop. He or she may also be able to have evidence collected at a traffic stop suppressed before it can be introduced at trial.