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What are the laws concerning open bottles?

Question: Can you talk about the open bottle law in Minnesota? Can a person have an alcoholic beverage while operating a boat on a lake? How about if you are a passenger in the back of a motor home?

Answer: A motorist cannot consume alcohol in any vehicle while on a public road. This applies when the open containers are within the area of the vehicle accessible to the driver and passengers. A public highway is any road, paved or not, open to the public for vehicular traffic.

If a motorist is transporting open containers, keep it in a trunk or another area not readily accessible to the people in the vehicle. This is the legal way of transporting them. The driver of a motor vehicle can be cited for allowing an open bottle, even if they are not in possession themselves. Even without being present, the owner of a motor vehicle is considered liable for any open alcohol container in their vehicle while the vehicle is in operation.

The same law applies in a motorhome. No person may legally consume alcoholic beverages whether they are the driver or passenger, regardless of where they are in the motor home while on a public road.

An operator of a motor vehicle can be arrested for DWI anywhere within the state of Minnesota if found to under the influence.

All occupants need to use good judgement when in a motor vehicle. Open alcohol containers is one of the clues we look for when investigating a possible DWI. Drinking and driving could have a deadly outcome for you, your passengers and other motorists sharing the road.

The following motorized vehicles are exempt from Minnesota's open container law:

• Off-road vehicles (ATVs)—unless they are being operated on roadways or shoulder of a roadway that is not part of a grant-in-aid trail or trail designated for that vehicle

• Motorized boats

• Buses operated by a hired driver

• A vehicle providing limousine service

Boat operators are exempt from this law, as they are not being operated on a public road. However, if you are consuming alcohol on the water the best practice is to have a sober driver. Boat operators can be cited for driving under the influence. Even worse, alcohol impairs judgement and there have been many tragic stories on our lakes and rivers where an impaired boat operator has caused a fatal or serious crash.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow — Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).

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