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Rhode Island Open Container Laws


In Rhode Island, there are some strict penalties for drinking and driving. To limit the occurrence of drinking and driving in the state, lawmakers make it illegal for drivers to have an open container in the car. However, passengers face different laws. Find out everything that you need to know about Rhode Island open container laws.

What you need to know about open container laws

In some states, open alcoholic beverages in your vehicle are not allowed. Whether you are the driver or the passenger, you cannot have any type of opened alcohol in your car. Sealed cans and bottles are fine, but open containers can get you into some trouble. It’s not enough to twist a cap back on a bottle; the container needs to have the original seal on it. If you have an open container, you can legally stow it in the trunk or in a locked, inaccessible compartment. To simplify the terminology, many people refer to this as the open container law.

In states that have an open container law, there are serious penalties for the offense. If an officer finds an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, he can arrest and charge you.  The penalties vary depending on the state and on your situation.

Although there are many states that don’t permit open containers, a few make an exception. All of the following states, including Rhode Island, allow passengers to drink from open containers while driving:

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Deleware
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia

In Rhode Island and all of the states listed above, passengers can drink from open containers while the vehicle is in motion. In every state but Mississippi, only the passenger can drink alcohol. However, Mississippi is less stringent. The state allows the driver to drink if his BAC is under .08%. Anything over that and the driver is guilty of a DUI.

The Drawbacks of Open Containers

While you might find that your passengers enjoy being able to drink in your vehicle, it’s not all good. It is true that you aren’t breaking the law by having an open container in your vehicle. However, it’s also true that an officer can use an open container in your vehicle against you. If you want to avoid any chance of a DUI, you might want to consider making your own open container law for your vehicle.

There’s one specific way that an officer can use an open alcohol container against you – probable cause. Although it’s not illegal to have an open container in your vehicle, an officer has the right to question you about it. He may see it and believe that there is probable cause that you are drinking and driving. And probable cause is all that he needs to ask you for a field sobriety test. By having an open alcohol container in your vehicle, you put yourself at risk of getting a DUI.

Failed Sobriety Tests

If you fail the field sobriety test, you could find yourself under arrest and facing DUI charges. In Rhode Island, those charges come with some serious penalties. It all depends on the severity of your situation. First-time offenders face less severe punishments than those with prior offenses. You could end up with community service, fines, jail time, a license suspension, and/or time in a treatment facility. For second-time offenders, the penalties are the same, but they are more severe. Fines are higher, jail time is greater, and your license suspension is longer.

So, you can choose to allow open containers in your vehicle. You won’t be breaking any Rhode Island laws by doing so. However, a lawyer wouldn’t advise you to have any open containers in your car. It draws more attention to you and makes it more likely that an officer will charge you with a DUI.

There’s no reason to put yourself at risk. Even if you’ve only had a few drinks, you may be over the legal limit. While an officer wouldn’t question your sobriety under normal circumstances, the open container is a red flag. It draws unwanted attention to you.

Getting Legal Representation

If you find yourself facing a DUI, you need help. Whether an officer found probable cause from an open alcohol container or you were pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, you need help. DUIs carry severe consequences. The only way that you can limit or eliminate those consequences is with the help of a lawyer.

Don’t face the maximum penalty for your DUI. With an experienced lawyer, you can fight the charges. There are many different ways that a lawyer can accomplish that. In the best case scenario, you can face a judge who chooses to drop your charges. In a worst case scenario, your lawyer can help you get a minimal sentence. Either way, it’s better than the alternative.

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