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Can you drink in a car if you aren't driving?

Most readers know that you can't drink alcohol in a car while you are driving. In fact, you shouldn't drive even if you've been drinking just before getting in the car. But what about the other of-age adults in your vehicle? Can others enjoy alcoholic beverages while you drive them around?

Unless you're a limousine driver, the short answer is probably no. Most states have laws that ban open containers in vehicles, which means passengers cannot have an open bottle or other container of alcohol in the car. Even when a state doesn't have an open container law—only seven don't, and New Hampshire isn't one of them—local laws might prohibit open containers.

If the driver is not imbibing and the passengers are, then the driver is probably not going to be charged with a DUI if law enforcement officials stop the car. He or she might be charged with something related to the open container law, though, and the presence of alcohol in the vehicle does increase the chance someone might be charged incorrected with DUI.

Because most states have laws prohibiting open containers and it would be difficult to keep up with the local laws on the subject, it's best to avoid the practice altogether. If a passenger does crack a beer or enjoy a few sips from an adult-beverage bottle and it results in any type of charge for you as the driver, you do have rights. A strong criminal defense can help you fight the charges, particularly if you didn't realize what the passenger was doing at the time.

Source: FindLaw, "Can Passengers Drink Alcohol In a Car?," accessed Aug. 21, 2015

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