The Louisiana open container law at La. RS 32:300 states that it shall be unlawful for the operator of a motor vehicle or the passenger in or on a motor vehicle, while the motor vehicle is operated on a public highway or right-of-way, to possess an open alcoholic beverage container, or to consume an alcoholic beverage, in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. This is a misdemeanor offense. Let’s discuss what is included in this state law.
First, the motor vehicle must be used on a public highway or right-of-way which is basically a public road. So, if you like to drink in your parked car in your driveway, that should not be an open container violation under the Louisiana law.
Second, the container must be open. What does “open” mean? It is considered an open container if it is open or has a broken seal or its contents have been partially removed. "Open alcoholic beverage container" shall not mean any bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains a frozen alcoholic beverage unless the lid is removed, a straw protrudes therefrom, or the contents of the receptacle have been partially removed. This applies to daiquiris. Once you put that straw in the daiquiri, it becomes an open container.
Finally, you can’t possess the open container in the passenger area, but what does “passenger area” mean in the law? "Passenger area" means the area designed to seat the driver and passengers while the motor vehicle is in operation and any area that is readily accessible to the driver or a passenger while in their seating positions, including the glove compartment. It shall not mean a locked glove compartment or behind the last upright seat, or any area not normally occupied by the driver or a passenger in a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk. So, in SUVs and crossovers, the storage area in the back behind the last upright seat is not considered to be a passenger area prohibited to have an open container. The reasoning is that the occupants can’t easily access that area to drink from the beverage.
The whole purpose of the open container law is to prevent people from drinking and driving. Believe it or not, many prosecutors and judges take open container in Louisiana seriously because it is so closely related to a DWI. The only difference is usually that the police officer didn’t believe the driver was under the influence of alcohol, yet. If you have a charge for open container in Louisiana and need a criminal defense attorney, feel free to give me a call. I’ll be happy to help.
H. Taylor - Baton Rouge, Louisiana