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A passenger’s open container may spell trouble for you

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2019 | DWI Law

Summers in St. Louis offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy outside activities, barbeques and sporting events. If you enjoy drinking beers or cocktails, you also have hundreds of places to safely imbibe. Your vehicle is not one of them. 

Missouri has some of the most relaxed open container laws in the country. While drivers may not legally drink and drive, adult passengers may have an open container without violating the law. Nevertheless, allowing your friends and family members to imbibe in your vehicle may spell trouble for you. 

The smell of alcohol 

While officers only need reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle, they need probable cause to search it. The smell of alcohol likely crosses this legal threshold. If you would rather not have officers look through your car, truck or SUV, asking your passengers to refrain from drinking on the road is probably a good idea. 

The temptation to drink 

If you have iron willpower, you may never think about drinking behind the wheel. Unfortunately, though, allowing passengers to drink inside your vehicle may tempt you to join the party. Because Missouri law prevents drivers from consuming alcohol, it may be better for nobody to drink until you arrive at your destination. 

A culture of compliance 

To avoid a costly DWI charge, you may want to encourage a culture of compliance inside your vehicle. That is, as the driver, you may choose to encourage your passengers to behave responsibly. By disallowing your passengers from drinking in the vehicle, you establish a bright-line rule that focuses on safety and responsibility. 

It is usually more fun to be the life of the party rather than a stickler for rules. While there is nothing legally wrong with allowing adult passengers to drink inside your vehicle, the practical consequences may be problematic for you. Accordingly, you may want to think twice before welcoming a passenger with an open container into your vehicle.


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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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