Connecticut Open Container Laws
In most U.S. states, it is illegal for someone to consume alcohol and then operate a motor vehicle, and it is also illegal for anyone in the vehicle to have an open container of alcohol. Connecticut is one of the few states where the laws on open containers differ, and this can lead to confusion for drivers, especially those from out of state. Failure to understand Connecticut law can lead to being arrested for driving under the influence, and this is obviously an outcome that most people want to avoid.
No Real Open Container Law
As of this writing, 40 U.S. states have laws prohibiting open containers of alcohol in vehicles. Connecticut, however, is not one of them - in most situations, passengers who are over the legal drinking age of 21 are permitted to have alcohol in a vehicle and even drink from the open container. Connecticut law prohibits consumption of alcohol “while operating a motor vehicle” - but if one is not operating the vehicle, the law is lax. Some local ordinances do ban open containers entirely, but state law does not.
There may be consequences for drivers who are under 21 whose passengers drink alcohol in the car, but these would stem from their age, rather than any consumption. A police officer can charge an underage driver with a violation if there is alcohol in their car if they believe the driver knew or had reason to know of its presence, which can lead to a license suspension. However, this can be difficult to prove, depending on the specific facts of the case.
Drivers May Not Drink
Despite the lax state of affairs for passengers, none of this means that any driver in Connecticut may consume alcohol while driving a vehicle. The law on this issue is quite explicit, with no wiggle room - no amount of alcohol may be consumed behind the wheel. You may not have a blood alcohol content (BAC) high enough to be charged with DUI, but you may still be charged with a civil violation, or with a lesser charge like impaired driving. The stakes are even higher if you cause property damage, injury or death, regardless of whether you are over the BAC limit.
It is not uncommon for out-of-state drivers, in particular, to be confused about Connecticut law and get into trouble; for example, some think that since open containers are okay in many instances, that anyone can then drink from them, or that taking a drink is acceptable if one stays under the legal limit. These beliefs are simply not accurate. If you are driving, simply avoid all alcohol and avoid the considerable time and expense you might have to spend on dealing with a DUI charge.
Can a Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney Help You?
If you have been charged with an open container violation or with DUI, the important thing to do is contact an experienced Stamford DUI lawyer immediately. The Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner have handled many of these cases through the years, and we will work hard to ensure that yours is settled in the fairest, most appropriate way. Call our Stamford office today at 203-348-5846 for a free consultation.