What Are Florida’s Open Container Laws?
By Jonathan Blecher on November 3, 2020
FL Open Container Laws
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way many people seek entertainment, particularly drinking. Since many bars have been ordered shut down in different parts of the US, people are doing their drinking in outdoor venues and often have “to-go” containers with them when they get in their cars. Open container violations are even more common now.
While many people transport alcohol in their vehicles, they don’t realize that it’s only legal to transport alcohol if done so correctly. For background, Florida statutes define “open container” as any container of an alcoholic beverage that is immediately capable of being consumed from, or the seal of which has been broken. Thus, if a police officer pulls up next to your vehicle at a stoplight and spots a six-pack of beer in your passenger seat, for instance, you could get in legal trouble.
In Florida, it is unlawful and punishable for any driver or passenger to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage or consume such alcohol while operating or sitting in a vehicle that is moving, parked, or stopped within a road. A driver is considered in possession of an open container if the alcoholic beverage is not secured in:
- A locked glove compartment
- A locked trunk
- Another locked nonpassenger area of the vehicle
It’s important to know that the state’s open container laws do not apply to:
- Passengers riding in commercial vehicles pursuant to a contract, and the driver has a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- Passengers riding in a bus operated by a driver who obtains a valid CDL
- Passengers of self-contained motor homes that exceed 21 feet in length
If you’re found guilty of violating Florida’s open container law as a driver, you will get a noncriminal moving traffic violation charge punishable by a $60 fine, $12.50 administrative fee, $10 assessment fee, $3 surcharge, and a possible $30 additional surcharge imposed by a board of county commissioners or any consolidated unit of local government. If you were a passenger, however, you will get a nonmoving traffic violation charge punishable by a $30 fine, $18 court costs, $12.50 administrative fee, and $10 assessment fee. Whether you were a driver or passenger at the time of the violation, you may get 3 added driving points to your record and be subject to community service hours.
Buying To-Go Drinks from Restaurants
During COVID-19 in particular, countless patrons have resorted to pick-up and delivery options as alternatives to dining in restaurants. Thus, there is no better time to learn about consuming alcohol off restaurant premises. Florida’s laws on this matter only apply to wine. There are no other types of alcohol mentioned in F.S. § 564.09.
According to this section, “a restaurant licensed to sell wine on the premises may permit customers to remove one unsealed bottle of wine for consumption off the premises if they purchased a full course meal and consumed a portion of the bottle of wine with such meal on the restaurant premises. A partially consumed bottle of wine getting removed from the premises must be securely resealed by the licensee or its employees before removal from the premises.
The following rules apply to customers transporting a partially consumed bottle of wine off restaurant premises:
- It must be placed in a bag or secured container
- Must attach a receipt for the bottle of wine and full course meal to the open container
- If transported in a motor vehicle, the resealed bottle of wine must be placed in a locked glove compartment or trunk.
Open Container & Marijuana
Many people wonder if Florida’s open container laws apply to marijuana. Although Florida does not yet have specific statutes on open or unsealed containers of marijuana, it imposes strict penalties for violators of its drug possession and medical marijuana laws.
While medical marijuana is legal for qualified patients in Florida, they cannot possess more than 4 ounces nor purchase more than 2.5 ounces of smokable cannabis at any time. In addition, qualified patients cannot possess edibles that contain THC levels exceeding 10 mg in single servings or 200 mg in multi-servings.
Those who do not possess a valid medical marijuana card may not purchase or possess any amount of cannabis in any form, or else they may suffer drug possession charges:
- 20 grams or less: First-degree misdemeanor charge punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or up to 1 year in jail.
- Over 20 grams to 25 lbs.: Third-degree felony punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or up to 5 years in prison.
- More than 25 lbs.: This may warrant drug trafficking charges.
Accused of an Open Container Violation in Miami?
It is important to retain an experienced attorney to defend your charges as soon as possible. If you take the risk of letting your charges sit around untouched, you may get your driver’s license suspended, suffer steep fines, and serve countless community service hours. To save yourself time, money, and driving privileges, allow me to defend your charges and negotiate for the best possible outcome in your situation.