Maryland's Open Container Laws- Misdemeanor Offense

Maryland’s open container laws are different than in other states and locales. In many resort towns tourists are invited to carry their open alcohol around in glasses and to enjoy the various nightlife available as long as they do so responsibly and do not get out of hand. Maryland however as with many of it’s other draconian laws and attitudes, does not permit such revelry. Well, not when it comes to the operation of a motor vehicle and having open alcohol in the car.

Maryland’s law is that you may not have an open container of alcohol in your motor vehicle in the passenger department. The passenger department is the part of the car that is not the truck. That would include the backseat passengers as well. Thus, if you are walking around one of Maryland’s beautiful idyllic areas chances are you are not allowed to have alcohol in your hand while you do so, that would be reserved for a more progressive state or perhaps one of the lovely Caribbean countries. Once you step foot into your automobile however it is important that you dispose of any alcohol or that you close any bottles that you may have and secure them in the trunk of your car. Ie. If you are going to or coming from a restaurant.

Essentially the law is that you can have an open container which is closed in the trunk of your car while you take it home or take it to a restaurant. However if that open container of alcohol is in the passenger section of a car, then the person sitting closest to that open container may expect Maryland’s finest to issue them a ticket for open container of alcohol even if they are over 21 years of age. This is, akin to Maryland’s gun law whereby you can transport a handgun from your home to your office but it must be unloaded and in the trunk of the car and thereby not accessible to any persons in the car. A lot of good an unloaded handgun in the trunk of your car will do in the unfortunate event that you may need it. However, that is how Maryland’s lawmakers think that we are best protected, but I digress.

A ticket for having an open container in Maryland is a misdemeanor offense which typically involves a fine. However like so many other tickets, like for example a seatbelt ticket, this open container can be used as a precursor for a DUI stop. So if a police officer were to see a red plastic cup sitting in the console between the driver and the passenger the officer may be able to use that as a precursor to knock on your window or to engage in a conversation with the driver of the car and smell for the odor of alcohol. If he smells alcohol then he will be in DUI detection mode and somebody may get the far more serious ticket of DUI or DWI. So you can think along the lines of a precursor ticket for a more serious offense and that is something that you and your passengers should guard against.

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