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Florida’s open container law

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2020 | Criminal Defense

Florida law prohibits open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles whether they are being driven or not. The pertinent statute defines an open container as a flask, bottle, can or other container that is capable of being consumed from or has a seal that has been broken, and it defines a road as a way of travel open to the public including streets, alleys, sidewalks, culverts, ditches and drains.

Open container penalties in Florida

Violating the open container law is a non-criminal moving traffic violation in Florida and is punishable with a fine. When police officers discover an open container, the driver of the vehicle involved will be ticketed unless a passenger has physical control of the container. Drivers can avoid an open container ticket if they are transporting a bottle of wine that they ordered with a meal at a restaurant and did not finish. Before allowing patrons to leave with unfinished wine, restaurants are required to reseal bottles in a way that would make any attempts to reopen them obvious.

Drinking in limousines

Florida’s open container law does allow bus or limousine passengers to consume alcoholic beverages, but this exemption does not apply to ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber. This is because the drivers employed by ride-sharing services are driving their own vehicles with standard driver’s licenses. The drivers employed by limousine and bus companies are required by Florida law to obtain commercial driver’s licenses.

Traffic stops and probable cause

Criminal defense attorneys with experience in drunk driving cases may seek to have open container tickets dismissed if the facts suggest that the police officer who discovered the container initiated a traffic stop without the requisite reasonable suspicion. This is because the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure prevents law enforcement from stopping cars unless they have observed a motor vehicle violation or have good reason to believe that evidence of a crime will be discovered.