What You Need to Know About Open Container Law and Penalties in Oregon

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Drinking and driving is illegal in every state. Drinking while driving is illegal and beyond dangerous. And, yes, if an officer pulls you over and sees an open container in your vehicle, you’ll be in big trouble.

Driving while intoxicated brings penalties that are especially harsh for impaired drivers who have containers open in the vehicle. If you were caught with an open container in your vehicle in Oregon, call a DUI attorney as soon as possible.

The Open Container Law

According to this law, you cannot have any containers of alcohol open in your vehicle. It doesn’t even matter if your vehicle is moving or parked somewhere, having an open container (beer, wine, or any alcohol) is illegal.

An alcoholic drink cannot be in any seating area of the vehicle. The law forbids even passengers from having an open container in the motor vehicle. The only exception is that passengers in a limousine can possess and consume alcoholic drinks in the passenger areas of the vehicle.

What is an Open Container?

An open container doesn’t only refer to a container of alcohol, but to any vessel that was previously uncovered (or has a broken seal). Even if you have opened the container and re-sealed it, it would still be considered open by the law. It’s not allowed to put alcohol in a container that is usually occupied by non-alcoholic liquid. The best thing to do is to throw away the container. The risk of getting arrested is big, even if you’re completely sober.

Public Drinking in a Vehicle

Your vehicle is your private property and you may believe that you can carry whatever you want in it. However, you aren’t allowed to keep open containers of alcohol. Before you’re charged for an open container in a vehicle, you have to do several things.

First, you must be driving on a public road or highway (these laws don’t apply to private roads, or when your car is sitting in your garage). Then, you have to have an open vessel in the vehicle (a can, bottle, or another container with alcohol). Also, the container must be open in some fashion. It doesn’t mean that the top should be taken off; the seal could be broken as well. This would be enough for you to violate the law. Finally, the container must be within the reach of your hand (or your passengers).

If you as a driver have a corked bottle of wine in the trunk, this won’t be considered an offense. If the driver has an open can or bottle in their purse beside their seat, this is enough to be a violation. Even if the passenger possesses an open container, the driver may still end up with charges for letting the passenger bring an open container inside the vehicle.


Penalties for having a container in your possession that’s open include prison time, fines, and community service. An open container can make a DUI charge even harsher for a driver. It could easily lead to longer jail time, vehicle impoundment, and loss of auto insurance.

Violation of the open container law in Oregon is considered a Class B traffic violation. If charged, you’ll pay the presumptive fine of $265. The minimum fine is $135 and the maximum is $1,000.

How To Transport Alcohol Legally?

First of all, if you’re a person younger than the age of 21, you should not possess any alcoholic beverages, open or closed. In case you’ve been drinking, you shouldn’t be transporting anything or anyone in a car. You shouldn’t drive at all, no matter how close your home is.

For people who are twenty-one or older, the best way to transport alcohol from one place to another is to store the unopened bottles in the trunk. You perhaps wonder what’s the difference if the can or bottles are factory sealed? Even in that case, it’s better to keep the containers in the trunk. But, what if your vehicle doesn’t have a truck? For vehicles such as pickup trucks, you can keep alcohol in the bed of the truck if it’s at least two feet away from the cab’s back windows, where passengers could potentially reach it.

If you were in a situation like this, it’s time to seek help from a skilled DUI lawyer. Make sure you act fast and let your lawyer review your case so they can prepare your defense. Trilogy Law Group is here to answer your questions.

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