Drinking while driving; the potential repercussions of having an open alcohol container in your car

The laws in Virginia that aim to curb alcohol related incidents are wide-ranging – and in some instances – complex. Your best source for an assessment of a criminal charge you may face, including those that are alcohol related, is your local Virginia Beach criminal lawyer.

Many adults in the U.S. are social drinkers. A common question often seems to arise amongst those moving from a house event to a public bar: Is legal to have an open container of alcohol present in a moving vehicle, as long as the driver is not and has not consumed alcohol? The answer may depend on your facts of your case. As mentioned above, a consultation with your local Virginia Beach criminal attorney can increase your awareness of the law and of your case.

The statute relevant to the question presented above – the legality of an open alcoholic container in a vehicle – is Virginia Code Section 18.2-323.1. Below are some points to consider regarding this law. Read the law for yourself here, courtesy of the Legislative Information System.

Point 1: The law starts off by asserting that it is illegal to “consume” an alcoholic beverage while driving. Thus, it is illegal to drink alcohol and drive at the same time.

Point 2: The law creates a rebuttable presumption  of “consumption” if there is proof of an open, partially open container in the passenger compartment, and some evidence that suggests the driver has consumed alcohol (such as behavior, odor, or other characteristics).

Point 3: The bottom line seems to be that although it is not “per se” a crime to drive a motor vehicle with an open container in the passenger compartment, it does create a rebuttable presumption that can be considered in determining whether the driver is violating the law.

In sum, it seems risky to operate a vehicle while allowing your passengers to consume alcohol. If however, a driver has not consumed alcohol and is otherwise fit to drive, the fact that an open container of alcohol is present is not enough, by itself, to be in violation of the law. Remember, your local Virginia Beach criminal lawyer is best equipped to answer your questions, as facts of each individual case can lead to different outcomes at trial.