Florida’s Open Container Laws

Florida’s strict open container laws prohibit the possession of open alcoholic beverage containers in certain areas. Violating these laws can lead to serious consequences. In this article, we explain Florida’s open container laws, the potential penalties for violations, and how a skilled Tampa criminal defense lawyer can assist if you find yourself facing charges. 


Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa have extensive experience successfully defending people accused of crimes in Florida, including charges related to alcohol and open containers in automobiles. If you find yourself facing open container law violations, DUI, or any other alcohol related driving offense, contact our office to get a full review of your case and to find out how we can help you get through this upsetting process. 



Florida’s Open Container Laws 


Florida’s primary open container laws are found in FS § 316.1936, which prohibits the possession of open containers of alcoholic beverages in motor vehicles unless it is they are kept in a locked glove compartment, locked trunk, or in some other locked inaccessible to passengers.  


In Florida, it is illegal for the driver or any passenger of a motor vehicle to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage while the vehicle is being operated or parked on a public highway. This includes bottles, cans, or any other containers with broken seals. 


It’s important to note that open container laws apply to all passengers in a vehicle, not just the driver. If an open container of alcohol is located in the vehicle’s passenger area, the police may file charges against both the driver and any passengers. 


Exceptions to the Open Container Prohibition 


The open container prohibition and penalties do not apply to all motor vehicles. The statute specifically exempts automobiles contracted to transport passengers in which the driver has a commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement. The law also exempts properly credentialed passenger buses, and self-contained mobile homes longer then 21 feet.  


Penalties for Open Container Violations 


Violating Florida’s open container laws can result in a range of penalties, including: 


Noncriminal Traffic Violations: Open container violations are noncriminal offenses in Florida. A conviction can result in fines of up to $500 which can have a powerful impact on your insurance rates because points can be assigned to your driving record.  

  • First offense for a driver is $90. 
  • First offense for a passenger is $60 
  • Conviction after trial carries a $500 fine. 


Second Degree Misdemeanor for Underage Possession of Alcohol: For people under age 21 who possess alcohol, a second-degree misdemeanor conviction carrying up to 60 days in jail is a criminal record that may have long lasting consequences for their future.  


Municipal Ordinances Can Be More Severe Criminal Penalties: The law allows local cities and towns to enact municipal ordinances that impose more severe penalties. In some municipal jurisdictions, an ordinance imposes fines of $500 and or up to 60 days in jail. 


Associated Criminal Charges: If an accident occurs or an injury is associated with the open container violation, other criminal charges may be filed which carry more severe penalties, including possible jail, higher fines, community service, and probation. 


Read More > Know Your Rights at a DUI Stop  


How a Skilled Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help 


When facing open container charges in Tampa, it’s crucial to have a skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side who can find flaws in the prosecution’s case and protect your legal rights.  


A lawyer can review the specifics of your case to determine if there are grounds for dismissal or if your rights were violated during the arrest. They will develop a legal strategy tailored to your individual situation that can lead to reduced charges or penalties. Skilled attorneys can negotiate with prosecutors to reach a favorable plea agreement, which may involve lesser charges or penalties. 


When a trial is necessary, a criminal defense lawyer will represent you by pressing advantageous technical legal motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence and challenging the accuracy and reliability of the state’s witnesses. 


Following the completion of any probation or other court-ordered requirements, a knowledgeable lawyer can help you pursue expungement to clear your criminal record. 


Criminal defense lawyers are committed to ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the legal process, including the right to remain silent and the right to a fair trial. 


Depending on your circumstances, a lawyer may explore alternative sentencing options, such as diversion programs or rehabilitation, which can be more beneficial than traditional penalties. 


Tampa’s Open Container Defense Lawyers 


If you’re facing charges related to open containers of alcohol, don’t underestimate the importance of legal representation. A skilled Tampa criminal defense lawyer can provide the guidance, advocacy, and defense you need to go through the legal process with as few penalties as possible, if any.  


At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa, we work diligently to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your case, helping you avoid the most serious consequences of an open container conviction. Remember, when it comes to your legal defense, having an experienced attorney in your corner can make all the difference. 


Contact us today for a FREE case review at 813-280-1244. 

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