Apart from rules prohibiting drunk drivers from operating vehicles, most U.S. states also have laws forbidding having any alcoholic beverage next to the driver. Referred to as “open container” laws, some versions ban even passengers from having an open container of alcohol.
But does Missouri have a similar law in place?
No statewide open container law, but drinking is still prohibited
The state may not have a universal open container law, but Missouri still has strict rules prohibiting the act of drinking while driving.
Under the law, a driver is charged with the offense of consumption of an alcoholic beverage while driving if they’re operating a vehicle on any Missouri public road while consuming an alcoholic drink. The offense is an infraction, which doesn’t constitute a criminal offense. But while it’s not a criminal offense, the driver must pay any fines the court imposes for the infraction.
Individual cities allowed to ban open containers
Although there’s no open container law, drivers still shouldn’t try to do so. About 30 cities in Missouri, the largest being Columbia, have passed laws outlawing open containers.
Drivers can still be charged for DWI
Open container law or none, officers can still pull over drivers if they suspect them of drunk driving. If a breath or blood test returns a high enough breath or blood alcohol content level, the officer can charge the driver with driving while intoxicated (DWI). A first-offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor; a conviction leads to a maximum $500 fine and up to six months of jail time.
In summary, Missouri has no open container laws. However, individual cities can enforce their laws, and drivers can still face fines for drinking inside their cars. Drivers should keep these specifics in mind or risk penalties.