What Counts as an Open Container of Alcohol in My Car?

Suppose you’re at an Italian restaurant with your significant other and the two of you order a bottle of wine with dinner. You finish your meal and you still have half a bottle of wine left, but if you keep drinking it, you will not be okay to drive home. Is it legal to drive home with a half-empty (or half-full, if it please you) bottle of wine in your car, or is that considered an open container?

Another hypothetical scenario – suppose you have a party over the weekend, and when it’s over, you have a bunch of empty beer bottles and cans. You decide to do the environmentally conscious thing and take them to get recycled. Is it legal to drive with a bag of empty beers in your car, or does that violate open container laws?

If a bottle of wine has been opened, even if you reseal it, will count as an open container of alcohol under Colorado law. Likewise, a bunch of empty beer cans or bottles would also count as open containers. In the first example, you could be pulled over and charged for violating the law and also potentially invite suspicion of DUI; in the second example, you probably would not be charged with anything by any reasonable police officer, but it is still a possibility. Because it is still a possibility, we recommend that any open container you have be stored in the trunk or behind the last row of seats in your car. If it is anywhere readily accessible to the driver or passengers of the vehicle (including the glovebox or under the seats) you could face charges. Note that even though marijuana is legal, open container laws apply to it as well.

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