What is The Minnesota Open Bottle Law?

Drinking and driving is a serious concern across the country, and over the past several decades punishments for it have become more and more severe. Not only that, but many actions associated with drinking and driving have now become offenses in their own right. One of these actions are so-called “open bottle laws,” which generally state that it is illegal to have open bottles of alcohol in a vehicle while it’s in operation.

If you’re a Minnesota driver who’s preparing for a night out on the town with your friends, then it’s important for you to know the laws you’ll all be expected to follow.

Minnesota Section 169A.35 “Open Bottle Law”

The official law, found in Section 169A.35, is fairly clear about what is and isn’t allowed in the state of Minnesota.

To summarize, it is illegal for any bottle containing an alcoholic beverage (distilled spirits, malt beverages, and more general alcoholic beverages being the three distinct categories) to be open in an operating vehicle. The seal on the bottle cannot be broken, and no contents can be removed from it. This law applies to everyone in the car, meaning that even if the drive is perfectly sober, and passengers are drinking, it still violates this law.

It can go one step further, as well. Under Minnesota law, the owner of the vehicle may still be liable if open bottles are found whether or not they’re present! So if you let a friend of yours borrow your car to make a run to the liquor store, or your spouse had to use your car for a night out, it’s possible that their actions could still come back on you when it comes to whether they had open bottles of alcohol in the vehicle.

There Are Exceptions To This Law, However

While this law might seem like a zero tolerance effort toward mixing alcohol and operating a vehicle, there are several caveats that make it significantly less harsh than it might appear at first glance.

The first is that if the open bottles in question are kept in a place that isn’t accessible by the driver or the passengers, then it doesn’t qualify as a violation under the law. So if you had, say, several bottles of malt liquor with broken seals that you were taking to a friend’s house for a party, as long as you kept said bottles in the trunk and out of reach, there’s no problem. It should also be noted that limousines, party buses, and similar vehicles are excluded from this law. As such, someone riding in the back of a stretch limo on their way to a wedding reception isn’t going to get in trouble for cracking open the champagne.

The other important thing to remember is that this law applies to vehicles being operated on roads. This means that the law doesn’t apply to carrying open bottles in a boat, nor does it apply to someone using an ATV or off-roading vehicle as long as that vehicle isn’t operating on a road or other trail that is specifically listed as enforcing the open bottle law.

It May Seem Simple, But Often Isn’t

There are a lot of twists and turns that come with the open bottle law in Minnesota, and that’s only one aspect of the laws concerning the interactions of alcohol and driving. If you find that you’ve gotten caught up in a legal situation, and you can’t see your way clear of it, then all you need to do is contact us today. We’ll help you understand where you are, and find a way to get you to a better place.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.