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Can passengers drink alcohol while the car is in motion?

Most states in the country have laws which forbid any open alcohol containers in a vehicle. Missouri, along with West Virginia, Virginia, Mississippi, Delaware, Connecticut and Arkansas, does not have these laws. This means, on the state level, it is acceptable for passengers in a car who are over the age of 21 to consume alcohol even if the vehicle is on the road. 

Although the state itself does not have any laws concerning open containers, a few municipalities have enforced these laws. Therefore, individuals in the state should know what the law is in their cities to avoid a DWI.

Cities with open container laws

Passengers can drive with an open bottle of alcohol in St. Louis and Kansas City without worry. Neither city has established any open container laws, so those areas abide by the state. However, passengers need to close their bottles when driving through St. Charles, Foristell, Columbia, Bates City and Independence. There is a level of good faith provided to drivers that they will not touch a drop of alcohol when behind the wheel, and drivers will not operate a car with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08. It is still illegal to drive while intoxicated.

Could the law change?

Some individuals believe it would be a better use of resources to impose laws in Missouri that would make it illegal for passengers to consume alcohol in a vehicle. Some estimates report the state has lost over $21 million in funds that could have gone toward bridge and road construction. In other states, police officers can issue tickets for this behavior and collect funds, but Missouri loses out on that revenue. However, if change will occur, then legislators need to convince the public of such dangers or the consequences that will arise if the law does not change. One potential alternative is to increase the state's gas tax. 

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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