Every state in the country has the right to establish its own criminal statutes. However, when it comes to federal funding, a state’s independence often comes at a price. Missouri law deviates from the standard in the vast majority of other states in the country when it comes to open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles.
In most places, it is expressly illegal for anyone in a motor vehicle to have an open container of alcohol. While states do often have rules that create exceptions for tour buses and limousines, standard passenger vehicles are subject to a strict prohibition. Any open container of alcohol will trigger criminal penalties even if the driver has no alcohol in their bloodstream whatsoever.
Missouri allows adult passengers to have open containers of alcohol. That policy has recently started to draw a lot of attention because of the impact it has on the state budget.
Missouri’s unique law keeps it from collecting federal funds
There is a reason that most states have similar laws regarding alcohol use while driving. There are federal standards that the states have to enforce if they want federal funding for their roads and traffic programs.
In 1998, federal lawmakers enacted rules about open intoxicants in vehicles. However, Missouri lawmakers did not change the state law. As a result, the state does not receive all of the funds it could for road and bridge maintenance.
Researchers say that Missouri loses out on about 2.5% of its annual construction money from the federal government. The total price tag for allowing open intoxicants in Missouri vehicles is around $22.7 million per year. With all of the attention on how this penalty impacts the infrastructure budget in Missouri, it’s possible that the law could soon change.
Knowing the law will help you during a traffic stop
If a police officer pulls you over and spots an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, they may try to question you or look for grounds to request a field sobriety test.
It is of the utmost importance that drivers in Missouri know all their legal rights, including the rights of their passengers to have a drink in the vehicle. Asserting your rights could help you avoid impaired driving charges or could help you defend yourself after an arrest.