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Open container laws in Maryland dictate how open containers of alcohol may be legally possessed by residents. If you were charged with violating open container laws, this is what you need to know. 

What Is an Open Container? 

The definition of an open container is a container of alcohol — be it a bottle, cup, glass, or another container — that is open or has been opened. In some cases, some of the alcohol inside the container may have been removed or consumed. Typically, a container that is “open” will allow for easy access to the beverage inside.  

Private Consumption vs. Public Consumption 

Open container regulations prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public spaces, including parks, parking lots, building common areas, and other spaces the public uses frequently. However, this is not where open container laws draw the line, contrary to popular belief. Many people think that consuming alcohol in a private vehicle is not “public,” but open container laws apply here as well. 

Legally, you may not have an open container in your moving vehicle. It cannot be within easy access of the driver or passenger. 

However, that does not mean all open containers are considered illegal. For example, say someone has a partially consumed bottle of liquor in their trunk that they are transporting home from a party. Since the liquor is in the trunk and out of reach of the driver while the car is moving, it’s unlikely to be considered a violation of open container laws. 

Possible Defenses Against Charges for Open Containers 

There are several potential defenses against being charged for possessing an open container, such as: 

  • Showing that no one in the vehicle had access to the container of alcohol while the vehicle was in motion 
  • The container was not technically open, even if it appeared to be, and no one in the vehicle could have accessed the alcohol 
  • There was no alcohol in the container 
  • The police officer who pulled you over did not legally do so and/or they illegally searched your vehicle to find the open container 
  • You are a hired employee, such as a taxi or limo driver and had no knowledge or awareness of your passengers possessing an open container

Should You Contact a Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer? 

If you were charged with the criminal offense of possessing an open container of alcohol and/or driving while intoxicated, you need legal help as soon as possible. Contact Maryland criminal defense and DWI lawyer Richard Brueckner today for a consultation at 410-430-1464.

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