Open Container and Alcohol Laws in Florida

Florida Statute Section 316.1936 prohibits a person from possessing an open container of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle.

Although in some states, possession of an open container in a motor vehicle is a criminal offense, in the State of Florida, this offense is only a civil infraction if charged under state law.

Other types of open container offenses are charged as a crime under state law or as an ordinance violation under local municipal law. Crimes related to possession of alcohol are typically punishable by up to 60 days in jail, 6 months probation, and a $500 fine.

Florida law does not prohibit operating a vessel or boat while in possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage, although operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol is against the law.

Attorney for Open Container Violations in Tampa, FL

If you were cited for any alcohol-related offense including a civil infraction under state law or an ordinance violation, then contact the attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL.

We represent individuals throughout the Tampa Bay area on a wide variety of alcohol-related offenses including being in possession of an open container, driving under the influence (DUI), underage possession of alcohol, and disorderly conduct.

Call 813-250-0500.

Open Container in a Vehicle as a Civil Infraction

For the driver who possesses the open container while operating a motor vehicle, the offense is a moving violation with a fine of $73 to $90. If you simply pay the ticket then points will be assessed against your driver’s license.

If you hire an attorney or go to court to represent yourself, you can ask the court to ask for the charges to be dismissed. The court might also withhold adjudication so that you avoid the conviction and no points are assessed against your license.

The statute makes a distinction between a driver of a vehicle in possession of an open container and a passenger of a vehicle in open possession. If the passenger is in possession of the opened container, then the passenger can receive a non-moving violation with a fine of between $43 to $60.

The statute provides that the “container should not be considered in the driver’s possession if it is in a locked glove compartment, locked trunk, or other locked nonpassenger area of the vehicle.”

Florida Statute 316.1936 defines the term “open container” to mean “any container of alcoholic beverage which is immediately capable of being consumed from, or the seal of which has been broken.”

An exception applies to a resealed wine bottle which is not considered an open container and can be transported pursuant to Florida Statute Section 564.09.

Ordinance Violations for Open Container

Florida Statute 316.1936(7) provides that a “county or municipality may adopt an ordinance which imposes more stringent restrictions on the possession of alcoholic beverages in vehicles than those imposed by this section.”

Many cities and counties have enacted ordinances to prohibit open containers that impose harsher penalties and punishments.

Open container offenses charged under a city or county ordinance are usually punishable with up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. If you are convicted of the city or county ordinance, then you forever lose your right to seal or expunge this or any other criminal record under Florida law.

Additionally, many counties and cities, including the City of Tampa, regulate through ordinances, the possession of open containers of alcohol on the streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and beaches.

An open container would include any bottle or can that has been opened. It also includes a flask with a lid that can be opened and closed. Open containers also include any cup or glass.

If a law enforcement officer sees someone in possession of an open container in a vehicle, or another area where such possession is prohibited, then the law enforcement officer might cite you for the offense.

You can legally possess an option container on a boat, but if the operator of the boat has a BAC over .08 or is impaired, it might result in an arrest for boating under the influence (BUI).

Possession of Alcohol by a Person Under the Age of 21

In many investigations for violations of the open container laws, the law enforcement officer will learn that the person in possession is also under the age of 21. In those cases, the officer can add an additional charge for misdemeanor possession of alcohol by a person under 21 years of age.

Underage possession of alcohol is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Possession of a Fake ID

Another related offense is the possession of a fake I.D. Florida law provides that any offense of possession of a fake I.D. is a felony offense, even if the person that possessed the fake I.D. did so to order alcohol or get into a night club.

Possession of a fake identification is charged as a third degree felony offense which is punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000 fine.

Additional Resources

Florida’s Open Container Law – Visit the website of the Florida Legislature to find Statute Section 316.1936. Florida law prohibits the possession of open containers of alcoholic beverages in vehicles. For purposes of the statutory scheme, the term “open container” is defined as any container of alcoholic beverage that is immediately capable of being consumed from, or the seal of which has been broken.

This article was last updated on Friday, August 27, 2021.